News to Note, September 17, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on September 17, 2011

Dinosaur dead in its tracks, landlubber fish, moth mind-control, biometallic evolution, lizard décor for the evolutionary

1. Matching Footprint Found Under Protoceratops

Skeleton in the closet puts its foot down.

2. Leaping Fish Seen as a Successful Transitional Creature

Leaping blenny leads the way to land.

3. Parasites Affect Behavior of Moths

Gypsy moth virus packs a weapon of mass dispersion.

4. University in Glasgow to Create “Inorganic” Life

Is it animal, vegetable, mineral, . . .or all-of-the-above?

5. First Lizard Genome Sequenced

Lizard’s genomic agility unravels the mystery of modern life.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Headlines popped up late in the week announcing the preservation of dinosaur feathers in Canadian amber. There’s actually a great deal more—or rather less—to the story than you might think at first glance. Be sure to catch next week’s News to Note for a full coverage of this colorful story!
  • Controversy continues in the scientific community as evolutionary paleontologists debate the meaning of Lee Berger’s claims about Australopithecus sediba. Berger believes his discovery “should dislodge Homo habilis, the famous tool-making fossil found by Louis and Mary Leakey, as the most likely bridge between the australopithecenes and the human lineage.” But to take over the primary ancestral throne, Berger’s sediba must evict the Hadar Homo jawbone which carries a date of 2.33 million years (by evolutionary reckoning).1 The jawbone’s discoverer, Dr. Donald Johanson, has responded in defense of his Homo fossil saying it “possesses all the hallmarks of Homo, [the human lineage, and] places the origins of Homo firmly in eastern Africa, at least 400,000 years prior to the dating of A. sediba.” Be sure to bone up on your understanding of evolutionists’ claims about the human evolutionary saga. Your friends and children will surely be asking you for an answer! See Dr. David Dewitt’s overview of the findings at It’s an Ape… It’s a Human… It’s… It’s… a Missing Link! and read a detailed analysis at Sediba with a Little Sleight of Hand.
  • A new species of the lobe-finned fish Laccognathus discovered in the Canadian Arctic is believed by evolutionary geologists to confirm the past connection of the North American and European landmasses during the Devonian Period.2 The fossils of Laccognathus embryi are reminiscent of similar fossils found in Latvia. Evolutionists don’t accord this branch of lobe-finned fish the exalted status given to Tiktaalik roseae—the supposed transition bridging the gap to land animals—but like Tiktaalik it was found on Ellesmere Island. The fossil’s discoverer Ted Daeschler says that his research helps place “the animal in its evolutionary crucible.” Because it has a flattened head and long sharp teeth, Daeschler believes the fish was a vicious bottom-dwelling carnivore which grabbed passing prey. He adds, “We want to know what the world was like” in the Devonian Period. Evolutionists of course interpret the geologic column as a snapshot of earth’s historical timeline. Creationists understand the geologic column as a historical snapshot that zooms in on a very particular part of our history, the time surrounding the global Flood. The Flood buried billions of creatures as it remodeled the earth’s surface. The deep Devonian layer, located just a little above the Cambrian explosion, chronicles the burial of countless sea creatures trapped in the surging sediments from the ocean as tectonic instability, described in Genesis 7:11, broke the ocean floor at the beginning of the Flood. Daeschler’s fossils do tell us something about what the world was like, but the findings need to be calibrated by the eyewitness account in God’s Word. Read more about the fishy story of Laccognathus’s “sister” fossil, Tiktaalik, at Tiktaalik and the Fishy Story of Walking Fish and Tiktaalik and the Fishy Story of Walking Fish, Part 2. Learn how to interpret the order in the geologic column at Doesn’t the Order of Fossils in the Rock Record Favor Long Ages?.
  • Polyploidy—having extra copies of genetic material—is common in plants. The evolutionary value of polyploidy has long been a matter of debate. Many evolutionists believe the value is negligible since desirable mutations are less likely to change plant phenotype and be preserved, being overshadowed by other un-mutated chromosomal copies. A statistical study published in Science suggests that polyploidy may increase a plant’s chance of extinction. “We find that plants that became polyploid in their recent evolutionary past are less likely to diversify into new species and face a higher risk of extinction compared to their diploid relatives,” says lead author Itay Mayrose. “Our study suggests polyploidy is an evolutionary gamble,” co-author Michael Barker adds. “Duplicating its genome puts a plant lineage at a higher risk of extinction, but in those few cases where it does provide an evolutionary advantage, other analyses suggest that it could really pay off in the long run with significant increases in diversity.” Unfortunately, the validity of these conclusions are impossible to gauge. These calculations, like those used in molecular clock studies, are based on genetic analyses colored by the assumption that the fossil record with its assigned dates actually records the evolution of plants. Thus, whether polyploidy provides the fodder for diversification as suggested by some or diminishes the possibility of diversification as this study suggests remains an open question.

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Footnotes

  1. Sediba with a Little Sleight of Hand
  2. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912104834.htm

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