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6 Strange Fossils That Enlightened Evolutionary Scientists

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posted on Dec, 22 2010 @ 08:01 AM

Critics of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution often cited the fossil record's lack of creatures "caught in the act" of evolution. And though fossils had been important to the development of Darwin’s evolutionary thoughts, these absences frustrated him.

Image: During his 1876 American lecture tour, T.H. Huxley used this diagram to illustrate how the limbs of dinosaurs (middle) were more similar to those of birds (left) than crocodiles (right)

Fossils had been important to the development of Darwin’s evolutionary thoughts. He had collected the bones of many strange fossil mammals from South America during his days voyaging on the Beagle and wondered if there was a connection between animals like the giant ground sloths of prehistory and the continent's modern, arboreal sloths. If sloths, armadillos and other mammals were so different in the ancient past, then obviously life was not static and could change over time.

But by 1859 when On the Origin of Species was published, Darwin had largely left paleontology behind. It was up to other researchers to find the fossil proofs of evolutionary change.

Many paleontologists agreed with Darwin that some sort of natural laws were behind the succession of different organisms through time discovered in the earth's layers. But many — if not most — were not convinced that natural selection was the driving force behind these changes.


On the surface, it would seem that Archaeopteryx showed up at just the right time to confirm the gradual evolution of species. The early bird was heralded by some as the sort of creature that proved evolution by tiny tweaks over vast expanses of time. In 1863 the British paleontologist Hugh Falconer wrote to Charles Darwin:

Apparently half-reptile, half-bird, this creature seemed to be just what Darwin was hoping for, yet he was cautious in his assessment of it. Rather than direct evidence for his theory, Darwin cast Archaeopteryx as an example that there were still mysteries remaining to be uncovered in the fossil record.

T.H. Huxley was similarly reserved about the fossil. Though Huxley prominently espoused the hypothesis that birds had evolved from small, dinosaur-like creatures, he considered Archaeopteryx to be a relatively irrelevant side-branch that only showed that the reptile/bird division could be breached without actually playing a direct role in the transition.


Very interesting. Especially since I joined ATS. Tell me that second one doesn't look like something out of StarcCraft.

The Earth must have seen some pretty cool things in its life time. I wish it could talk. It kind of does when it releases some treasure of some type. Almost like a Library or Bank.

Good think people from our past were able to conduct susch stufies and document them. Terrible if they hadn't. I wonder if they have info they don't know they possess-that would be the missing key to something we are looking at now. Like hidden in their basement or attic.

posted on Dec, 22 2010 @ 04:58 PM

Actually, I'd say that almost every fossil enlightens evolutionary scientists. "My paleontologists" (the ones I do volunteer prep work for) announced the finding of the oldest bird on the North American continent (90 million years old... looks like a roadrunner with teeth) here in Texas. The vertebra that I'm *STILL* working on (in 4 years, I've done 1 1/2 vertebra) is helping decide a debate over what group was the founding sauropod group for the Alamosaurus (a titanosaur the size of a 3 story building. That's why it's taking me so darn long to prep up one neckbone.)

Right now they're working on the interesting observation that things in the tropical areas apparently evolved more rapidly than things that lived near the poles (and had half a year of low or no light -- there wasn't an ice cap back then, so they didn't freeze... but it's not known if they hybernated.)

So every fossil tells us something. Really! That's what makes it so fascinating!

posted on Dec, 22 2010 @ 07:07 PM
reply to post by Byrd

Sounds like very interesting work that you do.

I'm glad you like the info in the thread.

So, have you seen fossile such as this one?

Also, I saw a related article from today, but I didn't include, but apparently in China, they discovered a mountain of 20,000 fossile bones. interesting read. I'll see if I can find, you would probably appreciate.

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