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News to Note, November 12, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on November 12, 2011

Saber-toothed “squirrel”, peacock-o-saurus, invasion of the brain snatchers, Laetoli: party of four, vive la différence!

1. Saber-Toothed Squirrel Discovered Among Dinosaurs

Saber-toothed skulls surprise paleontologists.

2. Oviraptor Flirting Techniques Revealed In Study

From egg-thief to devoted mother to fan-dancer, Oviraptor reputation soars in Vegas.

3. Brain Chemistry In Rats Altered By Parasite

Bizarre bravery in rats explained . . . with serious implications for the human brain.

4. Laetoli Footprints Revisited

A second look at Laetoli still asks the wrong question.

5. Defining the “Junk” Genes That Separate Chimps and Humans

Defining the differences . . . assuming the reasons.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Poison dart tree frogs come in a bewildering variety of colorful patterns that deter predators. Scientists wonder why so many patterns exist, since it seems like a single pattern would be more protective. Montreal evolutionary biologist Mathieu Chouteau went to Peru to explore this question with the Ranitomeya imitator, a species with ten patterns. He took along 3600 frog models in soft clay, painted to look like two different patterns of frog as well as a brown control, each indigenous to regions separated by a high ridge. In each area, about 7 percent of the “local” frogs were attacked by birds, about 14 percent of the controls were attacked, and a whopping 26 percent of the “visiting” type endured avian assault. The report, to be published in the December issue of The American Naturalist, “shows quite nicely how, once you've got the diversity, it's stabilized,” comments Cambridge evolutionary biologist Chris Jiggins. Apparently, once the birds in a particular region learn which frogs bother them most, they decimate other populations leaving the rejected frogs to proliferate. But as Jiggins notes, “Where the diversity comes from is a bit of an outstanding question.” Such so-called defense-attack structures (DAS) present a challenge for both evolutionists and creationists. God created a good world without death. Sin brought a curse upon it. Biblical explanations for DAS fall into two main categories. Some DAS are modifications of abilities originally designed for other functions before the curse of sin entered the world. Other DAS, like thorns, were introduced by God to keep things in balance in the fallen world. Natural selection acting on the variations and mutations within the genome has likely acted in both of these areas to allow the best-equipped organisms to survive. Without detailed knowledge of each created kind’s characteristics, we can only guess at the original use of some DAS.But we can see that an omniscient God equipped this animal with intricate adaptations to survive in a hostile world.
  • Frogs are particularly susceptible to chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that devastates wildlife. Chytrid fungus (Batratochytrium dendrobatidis) kills frogs (but not other amphibians like salamanders) by damaging the skin so that nutrients cannot pass through. Research from both sides of the Atlantic has recently provided some clues. Researchers at Imperial College in the UK have analyzed whole genome sequences of the fungus from around the globe and learned several different lineages exist. Most of the specimens are of the BdGPL type and are extremely lethal. But a type from South Africa and the Mediterranean island of Mallorca (BdCAPE) is significantly less lethal. Additional types from Swiss and Japanese sources have been found. So far, researchers have not identified the genetic differences responsible for lethality. They suspect 20th-century trade and transport of amphibians brought strains from different locations into contact and allowed the emergence of an extremely lethal strain. “We think we are seeing unique evidence of recombination within BdGPL - we can't say for sure if it's a hybridisation event but it's the most likely explanation,” said Imperial’s project leader Rhys Farrer. On the other hand, the frogs’ own immunity may be a major factor. Cornell University’s Anne Savage reports 1 a study of frog mortality in frogs from five separate locales. Some frogs from two sites recovered and survived the infection. The survivors came from places where the fungus has been endemic since the 1970s. DNA analyses of the dead and the survivors revealed them to belong to different histocompatibility genotypes. Savage’s group believes this genetic evidence shows the survivors already carried the genes that gave them immunity. She said, “It means frogs may have the evolutionary potential to adapt [to Bd]. Natural selection can only result in disease adaptation if genetic variation for that trait exists, and we have shown that it does.” Actually, no evolution of any new kind of organism, either frog or fungus, is at work here. The frogs, as Savage’s team points out, already have the genetic information to fight the fungus. These more immune frogs’ ancestors are likely the very ones that survived fungal onslaught in the 1970s. Yet with the global spread of a more lethal fungus, amphibians are likely getting exposed to variants for which they lack immunity. What these scenarios are illustrating is a great deal of immunological epidemiology and natural selection at work, but they do not illustrate evolution.
  • 2013 International Conference on Creationism Call for Papers: The Seventh International Conference on Creationism (ICC) will be meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, on August 4–7, 2013. The theme will continue to be “Developing and Systematizing the Creation Model of Origins.” Sponsored by the Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., the International Conference on Creationism is a working conference where researchers and creation scientists from around the globe gather to work out the details of the creation model. Since its inception in 1986, the ICC has become the premier peer-reviewed creation conference to attend. Research from previous conferences has contributed to our understanding of catastrophic plate tectonics, magnetic field reversals, baraminology, paleo-climatology, and evidence indicative of a young-earth. The sponsors of the ICC would like to encourage creation researchers from around the globe to become part of this historic event by submitting their ideas for papers and topics. Any interested author should write a minimum 1000–2000 word summary, categorize it according to the ICC’s Area/Sub-Area classification, and submit a copy no later than January 31, 2012 (see the ICC site for further instructions on where and how to send the file). Early submission is highly recommended. Papers dealing with the age of the earth/universe must be from a young-earth perspective. Papers from an old-earth, geocentric, anti-relativity, or anti-quantum mechanics perspectives will not be considered. More details are available through the Official 2013 ICC Web Site at We join the sponsors in encouraging creation scientists to be part of this event. The ICC provides a unique opportunity for scientists who understand the principle that true science will never conflict with our Creator God’s truth as revealed in His Word.

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