Pharyngula

Indohyus

We’ve got a splendid new analysis of a southeast Asian artiodactyl from the Thewissen lab that reveals that these little deer-like animals are a sister taxon to whales — so this pushes our understanding of the ancestry of whales yet further back. Carl Zimmer has already described the essentials — I’ll just show a few pictures of the fossils.

If you’re read Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge, you already know that one of the key diagnostic features of cetaceans is the large auditory bulla at the bottom of the skull. It’s a distinctive bony capsule that contains the ear structures, and which also has a thick, medial lip called the involucrum. Here’s the skull of these fellows, with that bulla marked out for you. This feature was unique to the whales; now we have to include the raoellid artiodactyls.

i-470f939baa31a1469cb5fe7b64163c31-indohyus_skull.jpg
(click for larger image)

Oblique lateral view of skull RR 208 (a) and ventral view of skull RR 207 (b)

This is the whole skeleton. It doesn’t look very whale-like, does it? But the bones don’t lie — this is what the ancient ancestor of whales resembled. You can also see a Buell painting of this lovely animal.

i-f0a34f1a2c642d0c4b66061b14610c5c-indohyus.jpg
Hatched elements are reconstructed on the basis of related taxa.

Other revealing details: the bones are unusually dense and carry a particular ratio of isotopes that say that Indohyus spent a lot of time in the water — it was a wader that trotted about in the shallows. It was also an herbivore, so the fondness for an aquatic lifestyle came first, then carnivory.


Thewissen JGM, Cooper LN, Clementz MT, Bajpai S, Tiwari BN (2007) Whales originated from aquatic artiodactyls in the Eocene epoch of India. Nature 450:1190-1194.

Comments

  1. #1 Bride of Shrek
    December 19, 2007

    Amazing to think how things have changed in 6000 years.

  2. #2 Hank Fox
    December 19, 2007

    Carl Buell rules!

  3. #3 BaldApe
    December 19, 2007

    I keep looking at the feet. Of course the enlarged middle toes are consistent with the artiodactyl link, but would they have had to revert to the more primitive form before becoming the flipper of a whale?

    These are a sister group, right? Not ancestors to whales, but relatives to their ancestors.

  4. #4 Stanton
    December 19, 2007

    Is this any relation to Diacodexis?

  5. #5 Tex
    December 19, 2007

    blockquote> the bones are unusually dense and carry a particular ratio of radioactive isotopes that say that Indohyus spent a lot of time in the water

    I don’t have access to the paper from here, but I suspect that the authors analyzed stable isotopes (probably O-18)rather than radioactive ones. I don’t think there any biologically relevant radioactive isotopes that would hang around long enough to be useful in this context.

  6. #6 Helioprogenus
    December 19, 2007

    #5,
    You can use potassium/argon, uranium/lead, and rubidium strontium, among other such radioactive dacay dating schemes.
    Take a look at the following link: http://www.agiweb.org/news/evolution/datingfossilrecord.html

    One thing is that bones would have mineralized, and perhaps the potassium argon would be a useful dating method. I’m not aware of any radioactive calcium isotopes that would have half lives in such a relevant time period, but that’s also a possibility.

  7. #7 Monado
    December 19, 2007

    It’s not a matter of dating in this case, but of looking for traces of marine water vs. fresh water.

  8. #8 thadd
    December 19, 2007

    The skull looks right.
    Cool to see another intermediate form.

  9. #9 Pastor Billy-Reuben
    December 19, 2007

    You wacky evolutionists crack em up. First you tell us that bears turned into whales. Then when that is proved wrong, you tell us that you really meant hippos, not bears. Now that it’s proved that the hippo story was a lie, you are trying to tell us that deer turned into whales. What’s next? Are you going to tell us that ocelots or bats turned into whales?

    When are you going to give up all this foolishness and admit what we Christians have known all along, that God created the whales in their present form on the fifth day with all the other fish?

    Pastor Billy-Reuben
    LandoverBaptist.net

  10. #10 Scott Hatfield, OM
    December 19, 2007

    Very cool stuff, PZ. But what happened to the ‘blogging on peer-reviewed research’ icon? Just curious…

    Also, comment #9 links to what appears to be a spoof site, so I’m guessing Billy-Reuben (and, no doubt, Cousin Heme O’Globin) is also a spoof.

  11. #11 arachnophilia
    December 19, 2007

    skeleton looks a lot like pakicetus.

    also:

    “TWO MORE GAPS!”

  12. #12 Jason Dick
    December 19, 2007

    Billy,

    The hippopotamus is, I believe, still the closest-known living relative of the whales. We’re just uncovering more detail as to the evolutionary tree, that’s all.

    As for bears, that was just Darwin’s hypothesis, and was never considered to be a conclusion from evidence. Just one possibility. It turned out to be wrong, of course, but then, most hypotheses do.

  13. #13 Arnaud
    December 20, 2007

    Carl Buell… phew!
    Might be worth saying, for the people who don’t know him: C. Buell did a coupleof posts on his illustrations of whale evolution at his, alas now defunct, blog Olduvai George

    An amazing illustrator.

  14. #14 The Stone
    December 20, 2007

    Wow, thats really neat! Yet another reason why evolution will always be more interesting than any religious explanation, and why it will always be more beautiful.

  15. #15 Julian
    December 20, 2007

    Just to address Billy’s comment, one of the big things about this discovery, which both PZ and the original author point out, is that this skeleton, in showing features restricted to modern day whales and being a herbivore, really changes our understanding of whale evolution. The old theory behind whale development was based on the idea that the cetacean ancestors were coast-dwelling wolf-like creatures who, for whatever reason, came to rely more and more on fish for their diet until they eventually, over millions of years, made the switch to an aquatic life. This theory was based on the oldest cetacean and pre-cetacean skeletons that had been found for much of the 20th century, all of which were primarily aquatic and shared dental-traits with other fish eaters. By finding a land animal that’s obviously a herbivore and that also shares a common cranial trait, the bulla, with all other previously discovered cetacean fossils, Thewissen has shown conclusively that this previous understanding is flawed and that predation developed after the cetaceans became aquatic.

    You see, that’s what separates science from religion; when scientists find evidence that is incontrovertible and contradicts their previous ideas, they change those ideas to take account of the new information. You see it as a weakness, but it’s why you didn’t die, strapped into an iron lung and unable to even move your chin, at the age of 12, or bleeding and pissing your life away from cholera at the age of 16. The ability to learn is science’s greatest strength.

  16. #16 Owlmirror
    December 20, 2007

    By finding a land animal that’s obviously a herbivore and that also shares a common cranial trait, the bulla, with all other previously discovered cetacean fossils, Thewissen has shown conclusively that this previous understanding is flawed and that predation developed after the cetaceans became aquatic.

    I don’t see that in the paper. He specifically refers to the pakicetids as having teeth that, like the later cetaceans, appear to reflect a carnivorous diet. Indeed, his whole point is that the ancestral artiodactyl was already at least partially aquatic, and the change in diet came later in the lineages of the cetaceans and raoellids.

  17. #17 Marcus Ranum
    December 20, 2007

    That wacky flying spaghetti monster sure went to a lot of trouble to entertain us! Praise be!

  18. #18 Marcus Ranum
    December 20, 2007

    Pastor Billy writes:
    First you tell us that bears turned into whales.

    No, no, no… they had common ancestors. They didn’t “turn into”…

    Next you’re gonna ask “with all the retarded baptists around, why are there still monkeys?”

  19. #19 Samnell
    December 20, 2007

    “Next you’re gonna ask “with all the retarded baptists around, why are there still monkeys?””

    It’s the other way around. With monkeys, why are there still retarded baptists?

    But really guys, Landover Baptist.

  20. #20 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    PZ @ top: “… this pushes back our understanding of the ancestry of whales yet further back.”

    Ah, the two-backed beast.

    Could we reduce the redundancy of this sentence a bit more reduced?

  21. #21 mayhempix
    December 20, 2007

    These SUPPOSED FOSSILS were found in KASHMIR which is a song by the known DEVIL WORSHIPERS Lead Zepplen who use ANAPEST TO CORRUPT are youth and force them to SIN with PREMARITAL SEX and BESTIALITY!!! SATAN leaves his EVIL CLUES for all to see and the ATHIEST PZ MYERS knows only to well THIS TRUTH. JONAH was swallowed by THE WALE as THE BIBLE tells us in the WORDS OF GOD and WALES are GOD’S HOLY CREATION and survived the GREAT FLOOD on NOAH’S ARK. Why are their NO FOSSILS of a HALF RACOON HALF WALE PZ????!!! The INTELLGENCE OF GOD and his GREAT DESIGNS cannot be denied. AMEN!

  22. #22 AlanWCan
    December 20, 2007

    Please stop. I really can’t tell the difference any more between Landover-style parody and the fundie real thing^TM.

  23. #23 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    “WALES are GOD’S HOLY CREATION”

    The Welsh certainly agree. They call their own language “the language of Heaven”.

    But what does that have to do with cetaceans?

  24. #24 Peter Ashby
    December 20, 2007

    And those in Wales certainly have more Brains than mayhempix seems to be displaying.

  25. #25 Fedor Steeman
    December 20, 2007

    #9 Pastor Billy-Reuben:

    Your ignorance is so blatant that I am uncertain whether you are just a parody or the real thing!

    No-one ever claimed that whales descended from modern bears, hippo’s or (in this case) deer!

    Scientists found out that whales seemed RELATED to a range of creatures that are bear-LIKE (Mesonychids), then to pigs and hippos and -with this discovery- creatures that are deer-LIKE.

    Rather than changing positions all the time this is actually REFINING the discoveries, because all these creature are (affiliated with) even-toed ungulates. Mesonychids are related to artiodactyls, hippos belong with pigs to an artiodactyl suborder (Suinae) and so does this newly discovered deer-LIKE creature.

    So it all hangs together and confirms each other!

    But I guess I am just casting pearls for pigs now…

  26. #26 NC Paul
    December 20, 2007

    Everyone – go and look at Landover Baptist before commenting and save yourself an aneurysm. It’s a parody site. Billy-Reuben, geddit?

    The block caps guy, I’m not so sure about.

  27. #27 mayhempix
    December 20, 2007

    “And those in Wales certainly have more Brains than mayhempix seems to be displaying.”
    Posted by: Peter Ashby #24

    Somebody please tell Peter that humor and parody are alive and well at Pharyngula….

    The spelling of “Lead Zepplen” should have been the first clue.

    Anapest is a metric rhythm of 2 short beats followed by a long beat that is common in rock and hip-hop. Led Zeps famous opening to Kashmir is exactly that: da da DUM dadadadadada da da DUM. To quote Dr. David Nobel, a wingnut “medical doctor and an authority on music”, “the anapestic beat used by many rock musicians actually is the exact opposite of our heart and arterial rhythms [thereby causing an immediate loss of body strength].” These idiots actually believe that anapest is an expression of the devil. The absurdity is that if it causes “immediate loss of body strength” how could rock and hip-hop possibly cause “are youth” to become craven sex monsters?

    Plus how could even the most inane creationist claim that whales needed to be on the arc to survive a flood. But then again… maybe they think pairs of fish were also on board.

    Some of you need to lighten up and not be so eager to flash your egos before pouncing. Otherwise you risk becoming what you so eagerly deride. At least AlanWCan #22 hedged his bet.

    BTW I’ve never been to Wales but Anthony Hopkins is one hell of an actor and Catherine Zeta Jones is, to put it mildy… hotter than hell.

  28. #28 mayhempix
    December 20, 2007

    If anyone bothered to check out the obvious parody at landoverbaptist.net they would see priceless comments like:

    MEET CHRISTIAN SINGLES! (9 Viewing)
    Who knows? The love of your life might be here! All the single men are GODLY and all the single ladies are virgins………..for the most part.

    Punked again. Too funny.

  29. #29 Peter Ashby
    December 20, 2007

    Did you ever wonder why I capitalised brains? there was a clue there, part of the answer is that I was not being serious, I was being parodic. Some fell on stony ground and some pots are calling the kettle black…

    Also since you can’t spell whales, why should I have assumed your mispelling of Led to to have been anything but?

  30. #30 Jud
    December 20, 2007

    “Billy-Reuben.” Wow, I am lost in admiration at a name that might really actually be a real actual name, and is also a homonym for bilirubin, the substance that makes feces brown.

  31. #31 mayhempix
    December 20, 2007

    “… Also since you can’t spell whales, why should I have assumed your mispelling of Led to to have been anything but?”
    Peter Ashby #29

    Why can’t you just laugh and admit you were punked? Your lame and hurried nonsensical rebuttal only serves to clarify the image that you are in it up to your ankles… head first.

    “WALES” was misspelled DeLIBERALtELY. Humor and wordplay. Get it?

    Merry Squidmas!!!

  32. #32 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    mayhempix @ 31: “lame and hurried nonsensical rebuttal”

    That would refer to #27 and #31, right?

    If you’re going to claim satiric significance for your capitalized misspellings, Peter’s free to claim the same for his capitalized (but correctly spelled) “Brains”.

  33. #33 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    But really, people, in this Holiday Season of Squidmas, can’t we all just get along?

    Descent from this or that intermediate form, it all just covers over the ultimate truth.

    Look at your own forearms, your own calves. Look at the bones:

    Radius and ulna in the forearm; tibia and fibula in the calf.

    We talk and write of the common descent of humans and other modern mammals from earlier quadrupeds and (back further back) from fish… but the bones tell a different story… not of four extremities, but of eight.

    That’s right. We’re descended from octopi octopuses octopus eight-leggedly things, and don’t you forget it!

  34. #34 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    Think of it, all those ages ago: the first land-walkable fishes, fearfully dragging themselves ashore in a desperate attempt to escape being devoured by a predator….

    And our real ancestor, bravely pursuing on its eight spindly limbs, learning to combine the effort of tentacles in pairs to overcome the pull of gravity. Ah, the feasting then.

    Of course only the fish left fossils back then, because only their bones got mineralized.

    It wasn’t until our ancestors borrowed the trick of having endoskeletons that they too left fossils, supplanting their (digested) prey in the fossil chain.

    Thus the gaps in the record. All is explained.

  35. #35 mayhempix
    December 20, 2007

    Posted by: Pyre #23 & #32

    It must be Thin Skin Day.

    But then again you too were taken in by “WALES” so I see your need to jump to the defense of the defenseless instead of having a good laugh at your own expense.

    Peter’s attempt at being “parodic” with “Brains” was negated by the fact that he was clueless to the original parody. And while we are talking about misspellings in the faux creationist post, here are some more to have fun with: “are” youth, “ATHIEST”, and “INTELLGENCE”.

    If you think your only recourse is to make the case that #27 and #31 are “lame and hurried nonsensical rebuttal” like #29, please be my guest and “wale” away.

    “The first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.” – Molly Ivins

    Now that’s funny.

    Bye-bye for now… I’m off to eat a “peace” of my very favorite Squidmas treat: Octo-pie.

  36. #36 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    We must now demand at least equal time in biology classes for Octopodism, a.k.a. the Theory of Octopodal Origins in Human Evolution.

    Why should this truth be neglected, and only lies be taught?

  37. #37 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    My dear mayhempix: You are certainly not the first, as doubtless you will not be the last, to misspell “whales” as “wales”. Nor are you the first or last to overuse the caps key.

    Thus you need not flail about in futile efforts to evade the shame of it, especially by claiming “humor” as an excuse — when the misspellings (as used) simply weren’t funny.

    Had you made some humorous use of the misspellings, dropping in Welsh words or references to Welsh culture or geography or even “the songs/language of wales”, then you might reasonably have pointed to humor as your motivation — and accomplishment.

    But you didn’t. Too bad, so sad.

    On the other hand, I did make such humorous use, in #23.

    This you call being “taken in”, showing your own inability to recognize humor.

    It’s far too late now for you to try reversing the situation.

    Better luck next time.

  38. #38 noncarborundum
    December 20, 2007

    That’s right. We’re descended from octopi octopuses octopus eight-leggedly things, and don’t you forget it!

    You left out octopodes. And I think it’s “eight-leggedy”, if the old Scottish (?) prayer my Dad used to quote is to be given any precedential value: “From ghoulies and ghosties, long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump [pronounced “boomp”] in the night, dear Lord deliver us.”

  39. #39 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    noncarborundum @ 38: Yes to both; and if I’d been able to edit that comment after clicking Post, I would even have changed “things” to “beasties”.

    L’esprit d’escalier is especially hard on beings who (according to Highly Prized Lore) prefer to use ramps.

  40. #40 stogoe
    December 20, 2007

    I miss Carl Buell’s blog. I’m thinking of getting Feet to Fins and the new Evolution book he illustrated for just to get my fix of his beautiful artwork. All the rest of the great stuff in those books is just going to be a bonus.

  41. #41 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    Jud @ 30: That pun, as “William (Billy) Rubin”, is in the book (but not the movie) Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

  42. #42 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 20, 2007

    I keep looking at the feet. Of course the enlarged middle toes are consistent with the artiodactyl link, but would they have had to revert to the more primitive form before becoming the flipper of a whale?

    No. Rodhocetus still had little hooves on some of its presumably webbed fingers and toes. What happened is that the whole hands and feet were enlarged.

    Diacodexis is close in being a basal artiodactyl. All of the earliest artiodactyls look more or less like this.

    Pigs and hippos were long thought to be close relatives, but both molecular and morphological studies now agree that they aren’t. Instead, the hippos are closer to the whales, and at least according to the molecular studies the ruminants are closer to both of the above than the pigs and even the camels are.

  43. #43 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 20, 2007

    I keep looking at the feet. Of course the enlarged middle toes are consistent with the artiodactyl link, but would they have had to revert to the more primitive form before becoming the flipper of a whale?

    No. Rodhocetus still had little hooves on some of its presumably webbed fingers and toes. What happened is that the whole hands and feet were enlarged.

    Diacodexis is close in being a basal artiodactyl. All of the earliest artiodactyls look more or less like this.

    Pigs and hippos were long thought to be close relatives, but both molecular and morphological studies now agree that they aren’t. Instead, the hippos are closer to the whales, and at least according to the molecular studies the ruminants are closer to both of the above than the pigs and even the camels are.

  44. #44 Julian
    December 20, 2007

    owlmirror:

    From the Zimmerman article:

    Even more intriguing is the evidence suggesting that Indohyus was fairly aquatic. The evidence comes from isotopes in the fossils, as well as from the structure of the bones. Living mammals that spend a lot of time underwater tend to have heavy bones that they use to keep them from floating up to the surface of the water. So does Indohyus. Its teeth appear adapted for eating vegetation. It might have eaten underwater, like muskrats do today, or on land, as hippos do. Its adaptations to water may have helped it find refuge from predators on land. (The inimitable Carl Buell, who illustrated walking whales for me in At the Water’s Edge, has painted this portrait of Indohyus.)

    If Thewissen’s right, then a key step in the origin of whales

  45. #45 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    David @ 42: “Instead, the hippos are closer to the whales, and at least according to the molecular studies the ruminants are closer to both of the above….”

    So if we’re very thoughtful, given to rumination, we could find it easier to learn to speak Whelsh? And Hipponese?

  46. #46 Gav
    December 20, 2007

    Mayhempix – you can get 2 wales in a car* so getting 2 into Noah’s Ark should be no problem.

    In the interests of harmony it might be helpful to say that Brains is a south Wales brewery, based in Cardiff. Their marketing slogan is “It’s Brains you want!” which on reflection could well be true. They also used to run an advert with 2 lgm’s emerging from a space-ship shrieking “we’ve come to drink your Brains”. There are quite a lot of UFOs reported in South Wales but most of the activity seems to be centred a way to the west of Cardiff, around Boncath.

    [Frantically struggling to get on thread] Many years ago a lovely creo friend of mine came back from a museum visit in some distress. He’d seen a display suggesting that whales were descended from “a dog-like creature” [=condylarth?] which he interpreted possibly over-literally as “a dog”. “But which dog?”, he wailed. Whatever the point was he was trying to make it got lost somewhere along the way, bit like this comment really.

    *From England, over the Severn Bridge for example.

  47. #47 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 20, 2007

    He’d seen a display suggesting that whales were descended from “a dog-like creature”

    Back in those days, people really thought the whales were descended from carnivorous animals, if not even from Carnivora itself. Before we had good fossils of very early whales, and before 2001 we didn’t, there was a conflict between the genes, which put the whales next to the hippos, and the fossils — the most similar teeth to those of early whales are found in the carnivorous mesonychians, which are probably close relatives of Artiodactyla but still outside that group; and, of course, molecular phylogenetics only got started in the middle 1990s, and in those times they had quirks like putting the mice and rats outside a clade composed of the guinea pigs plus all other placental mammals, so it was entirely reasonable not to trust this unexpected result.

    The museum display in question was almost certainly older than that.

  48. #48 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 20, 2007

    He’d seen a display suggesting that whales were descended from “a dog-like creature”

    Back in those days, people really thought the whales were descended from carnivorous animals, if not even from Carnivora itself. Before we had good fossils of very early whales, and before 2001 we didn’t, there was a conflict between the genes, which put the whales next to the hippos, and the fossils — the most similar teeth to those of early whales are found in the carnivorous mesonychians, which are probably close relatives of Artiodactyla but still outside that group; and, of course, molecular phylogenetics only got started in the middle 1990s, and in those times they had quirks like putting the mice and rats outside a clade composed of the guinea pigs plus all other placental mammals, so it was entirely reasonable not to trust this unexpected result.

    The museum display in question was almost certainly older than that.

  49. #49 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 20, 2007

    “They” in my second-to-last sentence are the molecular phylogenies older than 2001 (and, by default, younger than 1993 or so).

  50. #50 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 20, 2007

    “They” in my second-to-last sentence are the molecular phylogenies older than 2001 (and, by default, younger than 1993 or so).

  51. #51 mayhempix
    December 20, 2007

    Pyre #37

    In the genuine spirit of moving on, how about this: please notice I was not referring to you personally when I first responded to Peter and had taken your first comment as probably being in on my ruse. It wasn’t until you came to Peter’s defense that I came to a different and hopefully misplaced conclusion. And while I was completely aware that the misspelling of “whales” was a reference to “Wales”, it was more about the ever present misspellings and capitalizations by religious nuts and not meant to be taken any deeper. I was focused on what is apparently the more obscure Kashmir/Led Zep/anapest association and the absurdity of saving whales from a flood.

    But I did takes Peter’s comment as believing my post was real and was flippantly missing the point. If he were to claim that is not the case, I will sincerely withdraw my perception.

    Gav #45

    Thank you for your humorous and measured response. That reminds me of an old elephant joke with a new twist:

    How do you get 6 whales into a Volkswagen?

    Put 3 in the front and 3 in the back.

    As to the Brains in Wales (as we would hope there are), I was unaware of the bar and am laughing at my own expense… but at least I did state I have never been to Wales. And since Peter was obviously aware of it I will graciously assume that Pyre was also.

    I suggest we all claim the ambergris and move on from the bile.

  52. #52 Owlmirror
    December 20, 2007

    Julian @ #43:

    From the Zimmerman article:

    Zimmer, not Zimmerman. Carl Zimmer. I recommend his book on tetrapod & whale evolution; it’d very good.

    If Thewissen’s right, then a key step in the origin of whales was the transition from eating plants to eating meat. (Pakicetus and other early whales show signs of having been meat-eaters.) But that transition came after the ancestors of whales had already started to take the plunge.

    Yes, that’s what I was trying to say. You wrote: “predation developed after the cetaceans became aquatic.” My point was that it should have been “predation developed after the ancestors of the cetaceans were already aquatic.”

  53. #53 thalarctos
    December 20, 2007

    Jud @ 30: That pun, as “William (Billy) Rubin”, is in the book (but not the movie) Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

    When my mom was in med school in the 50s, she and her fellow students considered it high humor to have “Dr. Billy Rubin” paged at airports, public events, and the like. /eye-roll

    Guess you had to be there…it’s not exactly up there with the MIT or CalTech pranks, after all.

  54. #54 Trip the Space Parasite
    December 20, 2007

    Pyre @ #33: I am inescapably reminded of Learning the World by Ken Macleod. (It’s a good book even without taking the octopodoids into account!)

  55. #55 Pyre
    December 20, 2007

    Gav @ 45: Leave not out the 2001-Space-Odyssey-style monolith the aliens left in the middle of Cardiff, proof positive if more were required.

    That, and the odd matter of the old-fashioned blue police box that keeps appearing and disappearing around Cardiff these days….

  56. #56 Lorne
    December 20, 2007

    Ya gotta love it. Every few months a new transitional fossil being reported in the news. Sure must make being a creazytionist really tough.

  57. #57 Amy
    December 20, 2007

    Just in case anyone missed it, Carl Buell has a new website under the name OGeorge on Flickr Photos. the link is http://flickr.com/photos/olduvaigeorge/
    His stuff is better than ever, go check it out. Mark Witton also has a great Pterosaur page there, too.

  58. #58 BobbyEarle
    December 21, 2007

    “Billy Reuben”?

    He’ll be here all week, folks…try the veal.

  59. #59 Jackie
    January 3, 2009

    Lorne: “Ya gotta love it. Every few months a new transitional fossil being reported in the news. Sure must make being a creazytionist really tough.”

    Actually, for those with no taste for the Darwinian Kool-Aid, each time some fragmentary fossil is ballyhooed as the latest discovery of a “transitional” form, it’s hard to keep from falling out of the chair laughing. Among other things, the confident assertions Darwinists make on the basis of the flimsiest of fossil evidence brings the following to my mind:

    “Contrary to what most scientists write, the fossil record does not support the Darwinian theory of evolution, because it is this theory…which we use to interpret the fossil record. By doing so, we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say the fossil record supports this theory.” – Ronald R. West, “Paleontology and Uniformitarianism,” Compass 45 (May 1968): 216

    I have to wonder why the Darwinian faithful fail to realize that a neo-Darwinian hypothesis (such as land mammal to whale evolution) is not confirmed by interpreting the fossil record through the filter of neo-Darwinism. When the theory is used to justify an interpretation of the fossil record (as it routinely is), the interpretation cannot then be used to justify the theory. Logic is apparently not a strong suit in the Darwinian camp.

  60. #60 Owlmirror
    January 3, 2009

    Anti-evolutionists persist in not understanding science.

    “Contrary to what most scientists write, ballistics does not support the Newtonian theory of gravitation, because it is this theory…which we use to interpret ballistics. By doing so, we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say ballistics supports this theory.”

    “Contrary to what most scientists write, illness does not support the Pasteur theory of germs, because it is this theory…which we use to interpret illness. By doing so, we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say illness supports this theory.”

    I have to wonder why the Darwinian faithful fail to realize that a neo-Darwinian hypothesis (such as land mammal to whale evolution) is not confirmed by interpreting the fossil record through the filter of neo-Darwinism. When the theory is used to justify an interpretation of the fossil record (as it routinely is), the interpretation cannot then be used to justify the theory. Logic is apparently not a strong suit in the Darwinian camp.

    Stupid fuckwittery is apparently the strong suit of the anti-evolutionary camp.

  61. #61 Sastra
    January 3, 2009

    Jackie #56 wrote:

    I have to wonder why the Darwinian faithful fail to realize that a neo-Darwinian hypothesis (such as land mammal to whale evolution) is not confirmed by interpreting the fossil record through the filter of neo-Darwinism.

    When a theory makes a successful prediction, there is no need for it to be viewed through any filter but the common ground of nature and observation of nature.

    It’s as if creationists consider all scientific theories to be matters of aesthetic taste.

  62. #62 KnockGoats
    January 3, 2009

    Jackie,
    As is typical of lying creobot morons, you find a very old thread to deposit your stale leavings on, hoping no-one will bother to answer so you can tell yourself you’ve “won”. Tough luck. Could you really not find anything better to refer to than a 40-year old article? West is, of course, wrong. Modern evolutionary theory predicts the kind of fossil sequence that we will find if we are fortunate (fossilisation is a rare event), and more important, what should not be found – for example, fossil rabbits in the Precambrian would immediately call the entire theory into question. The relative dating of the strata in which vertebrate fossils are found was worked out before Darwin published. Absolute dates for many have since been provided by radioactive dating methods. Modern evolutionary theory predicts that as we go back through older strata, the fossils should be more and more different from living organisms – and they are. It predicts that for mammals that now live in the sea but show anatomical evidence of relationships to land mammals, we can hope to find fossils showing the transitional stages of adaptation to life in the sea. In the case of whales, we now have a wonderful sequence of such fossils. Before these were found, creobots like you routinely sneered that their absence disproved evolution. Your behaviour is the height of dishonesty.

    If modern evolutionary theory relied solely on the fossil record, West might just have a point – although not a very strong one. It does not. It integrates and explains observations from the whole of biology: morphology, physiology, behaviour, developmental biology, biogeography, ecology, genetics and more, as well as paleontology. Your creationist bilge explains – nothing. It integrates – nothing. It predicts – nothing. It has produced no research. It never will. It is a tissue of lies.

  63. #63 Danio
    January 3, 2009

    Dear me, Jackie, what a vulgar display of ignorance that was. I don’t even need to ask whether you’ve read Zimmer’s book, or the primary literature discussed in the original blog post. The fact that you are using a 40 year old quote to attempt to deride recent, scientific discoveries says a lot about who is actually hitting the Kool-aid, although, in fairness, 40 year old literature is somewhat of an improvement over the 2000 year old material you guys (including, I suspect, Ronald West himself) usually reference.

    Although I’m unfamiliar with the publication “Compass” (and, shockingly, a search of PubMed turns up no such journal), a quick google shows that quote, with the same attribution, all over the creationist web pages. Color me unsurprised at your incapacity for independent thought. I strongly urge you to peruse some additional, current research before continuing your pronouncements on how deficient *our* logic is.

  64. #64 Nerd of Redhead
    January 3, 2009

    At least this creobot gives a journal citation. But rather than to the primary scientific literature, it appears to be a travel magazine. Science is only refuted by more science. An opinion piece from a travel magazine isn’t even worth the paper it is printed on. Sigh. I’ll give him a point for the citation, but otherwise just the staple ideas already disproved by real science. Fail, F+.

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