Fossils

Pharyngula

Category archives for Fossils

Both Jerry Coyne and Larry Moran have good write-ups on the recent discovery of what are purportedly the oldest fossil cells, at 3.4 billion years old. I just have to add one little comment: a small, niggling doubt and something that bugs me about them. All the smart guys are impressed with this paper, but…

Magnificent momma

This is one beautiful plesiosaur, Polycotylus latippinus. (Click for larger image) (A) Photograph and (B) interpretive drawing of LACM 129639, as mounted. Adult elements are light brown, embryonic material is dark brown, and reconstructed bones are white. lc indicates left coracoid; lf, left femur; lh, left humerus; li, left ischium; lp, left pubis; rc, right…

Xiaotingia zhengi

A lovely new dinosaur fossil from China is described in Nature today: it’s named Xiaotingia zhengi, and it was a small chicken-sized, feathered, Archaeopteryx-like beast that lived about 155 million years ago. It shares some features with Archaeopteryx, and also with some other feathered dinosaurs. (Click for larger image)a, b, Photograph (a) and line drawing…

That’s not hyperbole. I really mean it. How else could I react when I open up the latest issue of Bioessays, and see this: Cephalopod origin and evolution: A congruent picture emerging from fossils, development and molecules. Just from the title alone, I’m immediately launched into my happy place: sitting on a rocky beach on…

Turnabout is fair play

Phil Senter has published the most deviously underhanded, sneaky, subtle undermining of the creationist position I’ve ever seen, and I applaud him for it. What he did was to take them seriously, something I could never do, and treat their various publications that ape the form of the scientific literature as if they actually were…

Complex eyes in the Cambrian

I got a letter from a creationist today, claiming that “Darwinism is falsified,” based on an article in Nature. It’s kind of amazing; this article was just published today, and the metaphorical digital ink on it is barely metaphorically dry, and creationists are already busily mangling it. It’s a good article describing some recent fossil…

Dyslexic Borat says, “Sexy Mite!”

It’s a real shame. Forty million years ago, this pair of mites, Glaesacarus rhombeus, had just buckled down to a happy grind, when plop, a drop of tree sap fell on them and entombed them in flagrante delicto. Also, coitus interruptus. And as long as we’re slinging around the Latin, Perfututum!. Notice that they mate…

Paleontologists at work

I’m going to break another webcam, aren’t I? While you can, you can actually watch a dinosaur dig in progress in Svalbard, Norway. (Strictly speaking, though, it looks like they’re excavating pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs, not dinosaurs.) I’m amused that it looks exactly like the the big construction project on the county courthouse in Morris, Minnesota:…

Sometimes, I really hate fossils. I hate them with the passion of a spurned lover, one who is consumed with desire but knows that he will never, ever be satisfied. They drive me mad. Right now we’re at a point in our technology where we can take a small sample from a living organism and…

Mother of all squid!

Well, more like great-great-many-times-great-aunt of all squid, but it’s still a spectacular fossil. Behold the Cambrian mollusc, Nectocaris pteryx. (Click for larger image)Reconstruction of Nectocaris pteryx. This was one of those confusing, uninterpretable Cambrian animals, represented by only one poorly preserved specimen. Now, 91 new specimens have been dug up and interpreted, and it makes…