Brontosaurus is Back!

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One of America’s favorite dinosaurs has made a comeback after a century of being pushed out of its rightful place in history. Flintstones fans will be happy to know the Brontosaurus has been vindicated. In 1903, long before the Flintstones used them as workhorses, the Brontosaurus genus had already been rejected by a paleontologist name Elmer Riggs who concluded there weren’t enough differences between Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus to warrant separate classification. Since Apatosaurus was named first, that name was kept for the genus (note: genus is one classification level above species).

In recent years, more complete fossil skeletons have been found, enabling comparisons that scientists couldn’t make several years ago. A recent study (April 2015, for full article click here) has overturned Riggs decision, making Brontosaurus a genus once again. The study, conducted by researchers from Portugal and the UK named Emanuel Tschopp , Octávio Mateus and Roger B.J. Benson, reviewed 81 specimens of long-necked dinosaurs from the family Diplodocidae to give a comprehensive look at certain anatomical traits.

The differences they found between the genera Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were more than 20%, allowing them to say that Brontosaurus deserved its own genus. So, now the name of the thunder lizard can be confidently proclaimed.

Of course, when interviewed about the change, Brontosaurus kept a stony silence rather than complain about how long this took.

References: http://www.cnet.com/news/welcome-back-brontosaurus/, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/04/07/brontosaurus-back/25413671/, https://peerj.com/articles/857/#intro

 

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/9106303@N05/11105904724″>Peeping Tom, East Side</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Pleistocene Park?

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 Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies of all time and while the concept behind it continues to exist in the realms of science fiction, scientists are inching closer to the threshold of de-extinction. And the newest candidate for the process is the Wooly Mammoth who lived in the Pliocene and into the Pleistocene Epochs.

De-extinction is basically what it sounds like—bringing an extinct creature back from the dead (that sort of makes them sound like zombies, doesn’t it?). This would obviously be accomplished through cloning of DNA since the creature would be, well, extinct. Which means you need DNA from somewhere.

In 2013, an exceptionally well-preserved Wooly Mammoth was found in Siberia, still frozen in the permafrost. Nicknamed Buttercup, this mammoth was remarkably complete with three legs, most of the body, part of the head and the trunk preserved. Scientists reported that a dark red liquid oozed out of the animal. Chemical analysis concluded it was blood.

Very recently (March, 2015), scientists from Harvard announced they have isolated Wooly Mammoth DNA and have spliced it into elephant cells. While the study hasn’t been peer reviewed or published yet, the geneticists say this is just the first step in bring back these creatures. Eventually, they may grow the hybrid cells in an artificial womb (it’s considered unethical to try to grow it in an elephant womb). So it will probably be a while before we have a Pleistocene Park where Wooly Mammoths lumber around.

Believe it or not, the de-extinction thing has been tried before. In 2003, geneticists succeeded in bringing back the Pyrenean Ibex (extinct since 2000) through cloning. Unfortunately, the cloned animal lived for only 7 minutes.

One of the things I loved most about Jurassic Park is the idea behind it. Imagine meeting a creature that no human being on earth has previously laid eyes on. You might call it the final frontier of sorts. A frontier that no one is actually sure we can explore.

What do you think? Should we be trying to reverse extinction? Are we ignorant of the potential consequences of de-extinction? Or is it our ecological responsibility to try and bring back these animals?

 

References: http://www.livescience.com/50275-bringing-back-woolly-mammoth-dna.html, http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/11/18/can-long-extinct-woolly-mammoth-be-cloned/

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/49503098502@N01/3724624458″>DSC02851</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

As Young as a Fossil?

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Most of us over forty would love to look younger than we are. Although being called a fossil certainly wouldn’t make me feel young, more and more studies are coming out with evidence that fossils are younger than we think. Dead creatures are being found that are still soft and still contain organic molecules, after supposedly millions of years have passed. These discoveries are hard to explain using a long-age view of earth’s history.

The most recent line of evidence for young fossils comes from worms. At Uppsala University in Sweden, researchers have found that the tube casings of the seabed worm Sabellidites cambriensis were still soft and flexible in rock which had been dated to 550 million years ago. The scientists say the organic compounds are original and the fossils show no evidence of mineralization. They further examined the worms and concluded the structure of the fossil worm tube is consistent with the tubes of modern seabed worms, like beard worms.

So, the worms are still soft and flexible and they look exactly like worms today, but we’re supposed to believe they are 550 million years old? Why? Because that’s how old they must be to get the long time scale needed for evolution to have happened.

Could even one million years go by without complete deterioration of these organic compounds? Much less 550 million years?

I find it hard to believe. How do the scientists themselves explain this supposedly incredible preservation?

They don’t. To them, it remains a mystery.

But if the rocks are much younger than millions of years, then there is no mystery. So, why not go with the simplest explanation?

At this point, you might be asking, why are researchers finding this stuff now and not thirty years ago?

The answer is two-fold: 1) researchers today have better equipment to test for these organic molecules, and 2) they are just now looking for them. To some extent, these discoveries could have been made thirty years ago, but scientists didn’t think this type of preservation was possible.

The sad truth is that you won’t find what you don’t seek.

What do you think? Is this unexplainable? How far would this kind of evidence go to convince you of the young age of fossils?

 

 

References: Catchpoole, David. “Seabed worm fossils still soft after 500 million years?” Creation 36(4), 2014, p. 22-23.

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/15114114118/”>jsj1771</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Fake Dino-Bird

Note: I can’t find a picture of Archaeoraptor to legally post here, but to see it on the National Geographic site, click here.

In 1999, National Geographic published an article about Archaeoraptor, a new fossil find and purportedly the missing link between dinosaurs and birds. This fossil came from China and was illegally exported to the U.S. where it was bought by the owner of the Dinosaur Museum. This man then contacted National Geographic to announce the find to the world.

The fossil was heralded as the missing link because it appeared to have a dinosaur-like tail with a bird-like body. Unfortunately, the reason it appeared that way is because it was a dinosaur tail (a dromaeosaur) stuck onto a slab with a bird body. In fact, a CT scan revealed this fossil to be a composite of at least three (and maybe up to five) separate fossils. These were cemented together by a farmer who thought the fossils would bring more money as one piece.

To be fair, few actual paleontologists were fooled by this hoax. The journals Nature and Science both refused to publish the paper because of the sketchy nature of the find. The paper describing this fossil was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, only in National Geographic.

Unfortunately, many more people read National Geographic than peer-reviewed journals. When National Geographic was fooled, so was much of the public.

In October, 2000, the journal issued a retraction based on evidence from a Chinese scientist’s investigation of Archaeorapter. This was a source of embarrassment for National Geographic for many years—all because they wanted to believe the missing link had been found.

What do you think? Why are so many people invested in finding a missing link between dinosaurs and birds? Even if a fossil was found which appeared to be an intermediary between dinos and birds, who could say God didn’t create that as a separate animal?

 

References: https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/feathers/archaeoraptor-hoax-update-national-geographic-recants/, http://www.science20.com/between_death_and_data/5_greatest_palaeontology_hoaxes_all_time_3_archaeoraptor-79473

Scientist or Fraud?

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Just because it sounds fun to me, I’m going to make October Hoax month. All of the Faith Filled Science Posts and the Fun Science Facts in October will be about great (and some not-so-great) scientific hoaxes. I’m sure we’ll laugh together about some of these.

I’ll start with an old one, the hoax of Piltdown Man in 1912. The set of fossils, found near Piltdown, England, included a skull and a jaw bone discovered in a gravel pit by Charles Dawson. Piltdown Man appeared to be the missing link between humans and apes because the skull was hominid-like and the jaw bone was ape-like.

It took 40 years for this fraud to come to light. In 1953, scientists released evidence that Piltdown Man was a hoax. Evidence like scratches found on the surface of the teeth where they were ground down to make them appear more human. And evidence that the skull and teeth were artificially stained to match the local graves.

These fossils seemed like a mixture between humans and apes because they were—in reality, the skull was human and the jaw bone was from an orangutan. And so Piltdown Man was put down.

Was this a hoax for profit, fame or just to further the spread of evolution? And who was responsible? There are several suspects in this fraud, and of course Charles Dawson is one of them. He had found many other notable fossils in his lifetime, several of which were later classified as fakes. And no other Piltdown Man fossils were found anywhere after his death in 1916. There were a few other possible suspects, but my money’s on Charles (if I were a gambling kind of girl).

We will probably never know the specifics of this hoax, although it certainly speaks to the lengths even scientists will go to present the illusion of truth. But an illusion can’t hide the truth forever.

 
Reference: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/science-of-natural-history/the-scientific-process/piltdown-man-hoax/

Photo Credit: ID 40007121 © Creativemarc | Dreamstime.com

Fossil layers like layers of a cake?

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               Different layers of rock                               Layers of yummy chocolate cake

I love to bake, not regular food, but anything sweet, especially when it’s chocolate. Have you seen the cake that looks like the death star from Star Wars? I haven’t tried to make that one yet, but it looks amazing. Recently, I was thinking how the earth is like a gigantic death star cake (no, I don’t have too much time on my hands, but this weird stuff just floats through my head all the time). Anyway, go with me on this, you’ve all made mud pies before, right? Same thing.

So the layers in the cake are the different rock formations (sandstone, shale, limestone, etc.). Although the cake above isn’t the death star, I hope you can see the similarities? And if you bake a cake one layer at a time, you know the bottom layers were created first, followed by the next layer and then the layer on top and it’s the same with rocks. What we see on the surface of the earth are the last layers laid down, or the youngest layers. We know they are the youngest, but does anything about the layers tell us how long it took to bake the cake? Nope. And neither does the existence of rock layers tell us how long they took to form. Rocks don’t come with a year stamped on them and the supposed dates obtained from radiometric age dating have serious problems (more on this in future posts). Which leaves us with more questions than answers. Questions like:

Why do we find rocks stratified by fossil animals? Evolutionists will tell you that we find more primitive animals at the bottom of the strata (rock layers) because they are the ancestors of those higher in the strata. Seems to make sense, right? Unless there’s a different explanation.

If a global flood happened today, on the scale of Noah’s flood, we’d likely see the same fossils in the same rock layers after it was over. Not because the animals are related, but because they live in different habitats. The sea bottom dwelling creatures live at lower elevations and during a flood, they would be overwhelmed and smothered by mud. Amphibians live at a slightly higher elevation, but must stay close to water in order to breed, so they would be in layers just above the lower sea life. Reptiles and mammals would likely run to higher ground and then float after death, causing them to be found in higher rock layers. The only humans who would survive a violent flood like this today would be those on an aircraft carrier or maybe a submarine. In Noah’s time, no other humans, besides him, had seen the need to build a huge boat like the ark.

So, we would see much the same sequence of rocks with the same fossils of animals that weren’t related, just buried in sequence based on habitat.

Marine creatures—Amphibians—Reptiles—Mammals

Are there any fossils that cross over? Yes, but when geologists find a fossil which doesn’t belong, they typically call it in-fill from the layers above or they might say the whole sequence has been re-worked (meaning eroded and stirred up). Why do they believe the sequence was re-worked? Because the fossils are out of order. They are forced into this type of circular reasoning because there is no way to explain how those fossils got there without invalidating the theory of evolution.

What do you think? Which explanation for the distribution of fossils makes sense to you? One or both of them?

 

Photo Credits: Rock formation: ID 25013280 © Rixie | Dreamstime.com, Cake: ID 11609930 © Adina Chiriliuc | Dreamstime.com

Dinosaur to Bird Evolution, Part 1

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 ID 32027033 © Skripko Ievgen | Dreamstime.com

I have loved dinosaurs since I was a kid. I know, it’s weird. Because I’m a girl and I’m not supposed to love big, scaly critters with lots of teeth, but that’s okay, I’m fine with being weird (used to it, in fact). So, out of my love and devotion for dinosaurs, I have decided to call the month of May, Dinosaur Month on my blog.

Yes, I am aware that International Dinosaur Month is in October (although nobody seems to know who started this), and National Fossil Day is also in October (Oct. 15th), but I don’t want to wait. And it’s my blog, so you can’t stop me (no, I’m not sticking my tongue out).

If you happen to not like dinosaurs, you can still visit here on Mondays for the devotions (I can’t do all this month’s devotions about dinosaurs, sorry, it’s just too hard). Or you can feel free to visit here again in June, I won’t hold it against you.

Now, on to dinosaur related things. In school, I remember being taught about the general theory of evolution when I was pretty young, maybe in grade school, but certainly by junior high. And it actually made me love dinosaurs more. To think they had one ancestor, from a group called the Archosaurs, whose DNA changed and morphed into all the different amazing creatures we see at dusty dig sites or in museum displays. The idea itself seemed fantastical, and I love ideas.

The hypothesis of dinosaurs changing into birds came into fashion sometime while I was in college. I accepted it without question. For me, it meant that in a small way dinosaurs lived on, that somehow they outsmarted the gigantic meteor or the climate change or whatever actually killed them all off.

Skip ahead many years and I became a Christian. I continued to believe in evolution for several more years until I took a church class about creationism. I went into that class with the attitude of “prove this creation stuff to me.” And I was surprised by the evidence. In the next several posts, I’d like to share some of this evidence as it relates to dinosaurs. Some of this information has come from classes I’ve taken with creation scientists, some from creation magazines, and some of it from a presentation prepared by Helmut Welke, President of the Quad Cities Creation Science Association (thanks, Helmut). For more on the Quad Cities Creation Science Association, visit their website, http://www.qccsa.org/.

I’ll do my best to keep this down to earth because I’m sure most of you out there aren’t geologists. So, here are a few of the issues with the theory of dinosaur to bird evolution:

1)      Lack of transitional forms

This means scientists don’t see bird-dinos or dino-birds. If evolution gradually changed dinosaurs into birds, there should be intermediate forms between the two. These transitional forms just aren’t found in the fossil record. Back in the day of Darwin, paleontologists said we simply hadn’t found enough fossils and that transitional forms would turn up. Millions of fossils later, we still have no transitional forms.

Archaeopteryx is sometimes heralded as the missing link between dinosaurs and birds, but there isn’t any evidence this animal was anything more than a bird. It has the characteristic longer forelimbs and shorter hind limbs of a bird, but its supposed dinosaur ancestors show no evidence of their body proportions transitioning in this way.

A few dinosaur fossils have been found with fuzzy material on the bone, which some paleontologists have interpreted as left over feathers. However, further study has shown this material to be fossilized collagen filaments from skin not feathers.

2)      Feathers versus scales

Feathers differ markedly from scales in structure and growth. Feathers grow from tube-like follicles similar to hair follicles and are attached at knobs on the bone. Scales are not individual structures like feathers, but rather comprise a continuous sheet on the surface of the body. When scales shed, they shed as an entire sheet. In contrast, feathers grow and are shed in matched pairs. The structure is very different, as well. The feather vane is made up of hundreds of barbs, each bearing hundreds of barbules interlocked with tiny hinged hooks. This structure is much more complex than the relatively simple structure of reptilian scales. Is it reasonable to believe one evolved into another?

3)      Dinosaur digits

At first glance, dinosaur and bird hands look similar in that they both have three fingers, but the problem is they aren’t the same three fingers. As the embryo develops in both birds and dinosaurs, two of the five fingers are lost and three are retained. Dinosaurs retain digits one, two and three (digit one is the thumb), while birds retain digits two, three and four. So, birds and dinosaurs have mismatched fingers. If they evolved from each other, you’d expect their fingers to have evolved together, as well. This difference suggests it’s almost impossible for them to be related.

In the post next week, I’ll discuss more problems with the hypothesis of dinosaur to bird evolution. For now, what do you think? Does it sound possible for dinosaur scales to evolve into bird feathers? How would you account for the difference in finger development?

Additional Resources: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/did-dinosaurs-turn-into-birds