Thursday, April 06, 2006

Another Transitional Form Found. Yawn.

Meanwhile, science marches on. Paleontologists have found a clear transitional form linking ancient fish to land-dwelling animals. The New York Times provides this decent run-down of the basic facts of the situation.

P. Z. Myers has more details on the subject, and he includes links to places where you can learn still more. I particularly liked this quote, taken from a review article about the finds published in Nature:

First, it demonstrates the predictive capacity of palaeontology. The Nunavut field project had the express aim of finding an intermediate between Panderichthys and tetrapods, by searching in sediments from the most probable environment (rivers) and time (early Late Devonian). Second, Tiktaalik adds enormously to our understanding of the fish-tetrapod transition because of its position on the tree and the combination of characters it displays.

This fossil is an impressive find and certainly helps to fill in some gaps in our knowledge of the fish to land-dwelling animal transition. But the mere fact that it is unambigously transitional really shouldn't be such big news. After all, there are droves of such fossils already known.


At 11:18 PM, Blogger Martin Wagner said...

Well, I would be so quick to "yawn" over this. I know this isn't big news to actual biologists, but the fact it's getting so much mainstream news coverage is great. Most of the scientifically illiterate public will be exposed to this kind of fact for the first time. That has to be good.

At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The mainstream news coverage includes the front page of the NYTimes above the fold today.


At 2:16 PM, Anonymous darthWilliam said...

Maybe this plus all the coverage that the "Gospel of Judas" is getting will really shake the fundies up.

But that's probably just wishful thinking.


At 11:01 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

There is a statistical way to satisfy rational creationists, if such exist. Ask them to identify 20 gaps in the fossil record that will never be filled. As links turn up, they should be increasingly willing to concede the point. This has, of course, already been done piecemeal since Darwin, but the collective memory of creationists is not sufficiently coherent to recognize the pattern. Maybe a more dramatic challenge is required.

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous JPB said...

I would like to ask you to do a little more research on this latest "find." Those Creationists are tricky and clever sometimes. They like to use our own science against us. The scientists in the article state that the fossil is from the Late Devonian period which puts the creature around 375 million years old. I would like to make sure that this dating is acurate through at least 2 dating meathods.(It would be rash to assume that the scientists had already confirmed this, because that would be unrefutable evidence and they neglected to mention this in any scientific journals I have seen.) In the past Creationists have used such ranges of dates (produced through different tests on the same material) to argue that the item cannot be catagorized scientificly through such results. If we are only looking at age of the rock to date this "find" then we are in for a difficult argument. The rock is said to be fossilised sandstone which cannot be tested for it's age other than saying this layer is from the_____age and therefore any fossils found in it are also from this period. But dating fossils from those periods also must yield a date consistant with that claim or the sturdyness of the claim breaks down.
I am only mentioning this now as a caution for over-the-top excitement about this "find." If the dates are not consistant with the time period that this fish must fit into to be labeled a true transitional form, then we have a long road to victory. I would remind you that there are virutally no [scientificly] solid transitional forms illustrating primate to man. They are all so far either declared hoax's or are so vauge that they are no longer popular as arguments. This vaugness extends to and includes the previously submitted transitional forms like the Archaeopteryx which displays only visual similarities and not biological resembelance to a reptile. Because of this biologists are now somewhat divided on the history of this magestic extinct bird species.
If you read this far I am impressed and would like to thank you for your attention. I only say this to advise you to hold "facts" loosly. There is a lot of excitment around these new discoveries and the tendency to want to stick-it to the Creationists can be great, but let science prevail, and the truth will show itself. If this is a transitional fish then great, but I don't really have much of a problem adding another species of fish to the catalog of new ones that we are finding every year that are still alive.

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