Archive of items from Evidence News

Lucy climbed trees and fell out, according to reports in ScienceDaily and New Scientistst 30 November, and PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166095, and ScienceDaily and Science (AAAS) 19 August 2016 News and Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature19332. Scientists at University of Texas (UT) Austin have scanned the bones of the original Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”) specimen using an X-ray CT scanner which enables scientists to examine the internal structure of the bones.

During life bones respond to the forces impinging on them from muscles and body movement, and increase their thickness where the strongest forces are applied. Therefore scientists can assess which parts of the body were most active and had the strongest muscles. A tree-climbing ape will show most strength in the arms and upper body, whilst humans, who walk on two legs, show most strength in the legs and pelvis.

Researchers compared the structure of Lucy’s arm and thigh bones with those of chimpanzees and humans and found that Lucy’s bone strength was more like chimpanzees than humans. According to Christopher Ruff, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who helped analyse the bone scans, the extra bone strength in the arms “would not be present unless Lucy mechanically loaded her upper limbs more than most modern humans”. He went on to comment: “Ours is the best evidence to date that A. afarensis actually spent a significant portion of their time engaged in arboreal behaviour”. (“Arboreal behaviour” means tree climbing.)

Lucy is generally claimed to have walked upright on the ground like humans, but the scans on the thigh bone indicate her walking style was different to human walking, in that she had to shift her upper body sideways over the supporting leg when lifting the other one off the ground in order to take a step. This is an inefficient style of walking that uses more energy and is not good for long distance walking.

The bone scans not only indicated Lucy spent most of her time moving about in trees, but also that she could have died from falling out of a tree. The bones showed multiple breaks, including a “four-part proximal humeral fracture” of the right humerus. This is a fracture of the upper arm bone near the shoulder caused by landing heavily onto an outstretched arm. There were also cracks in left shoulder, right ankle, knee, pelvis and first rib. According to John Kappelman, one of the University of Texas researchers, these are the “hallmark of severe trauma”. According to Science News, the UT team “calculated that the forces that fractured Lucy’s upper arm were equal to a fall from a height of about 13.7 meters — as high as a four-story building or the top of a tall tree, such as a mature acacia — at a velocity of about 59 kilometres per hour”. The breaks are sharp and show no sign of healing.

However, some fossil scientists, including Donald Johansen who was part of the team that found Lucy, are sceptical. Johansen commented: “Terrestrial animals like antelopes and gazelles, elephants and rhinos and giraffes — all these bones show very similar fracture and breakage patterns as Lucy. You can be sure they didn’t fall out of trees”. Paleoanthropologist Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley explained that most breaks in fossil bones are the result of geological processes, e.g. tectonic forces, soil movement, pressure from overlying sediments, and weathering.

New Scientist, Science, ScienceDaily 

Editorial Comment: Since these findings fit with previous studies of Australopithecine bones, which indicate their limb lengths, body proportions and brain size were all ape like, we are not surprised that Lucy had arm and thigh bones suitable for tree climbing rather than bipedal ground walking. It pays to remember the unpopular fact that the original Lucy skeleton does not have feet, in spite of all the claims that Lucy and other Australopithecines walked upright on human-like feet. Any human-like foot bones or footprints claimed to be Australopithecines, have never been found attached to an Australopithecine skeleton, but were classified as such only on the basis of the alleged age of the rock layers they were found in. See our report Lucy Gets a Bone Graft here.

The debate about the bone fractures is interesting. It may be a case of both sides are right. The humerus fracture is typical of what occurs from a hard landing on an outstretched arm. Some of the other fractures may have occurred at the same time, and it is possible that Lucy did die following this fall before any healing processes started. Fractures of the first rib are very rare, and are usually associated with severe trauma also involving the neck vertebrae. It is not possible to tell if this happened as the Lucy specimen has no neck vertebrae.

Furthermore, fossils do get cracks in them from various earth movements after they have been buried, so some of the breaks may have occurred later.

Whatever really happened to Lucy, these two studies of the bones confirm that Lucy was an extinct tree dwelling ape, who like living apes, may have spent some time on the ground, but was no human ancestor. (Ref. southern apes, fossilisation, biomechanics)

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 24
14 December 2016
Creation Research Australia

 

Speed of light challenge proposed by physicists, according to New Scientist 23 November 2016 and ScienceDaily 25 November 2016. Many theories in physics and cosmology, including Einstein’s theory of relativity, are based on the belief that the speed of light in a vacuum is always constant. In the late 1990’s this assumption was questioned by João Magueijo of Imperial College London, because of a problem with the Big Bang Theory, known as the horizon problem. If the speed of light, and all electromagnetic radiation, has always been the same, then the universe is too big for it to be evenly heated in the time since the Big Bang. The ScienceDaily article explains: “As an analogy, to heat up a room evenly, the warm air from radiators at either end has to travel across the room and mix fully. The problem for the universe is that the ‘room’ – the observed size of the universe – appears to be too large for this to have happened in the time since it was formed”.

The current explanation for this problem is a theory called “inflation” which claims the early universe started out very small and then suddenly underwent a period of extremely rapid expansion. However, this theory requires the invention of an “inflation field” – a temporary set of conditions that mysteriously came into being sometime soon after the beginning and then, equally mysteriously, ceased.

To overcome this problem Magueijo suggested the speed of light was much faster in the past. He and a colleague, Niayesh Afshordi at the Perimeter Institute, Canada, are now proposing a means of testing this theory using measurements of the cosmic background radiation. On the basis of their theory they have made a prediction about a measurement known as the “spectral index”, which relates to small variations in the cosmic microwave background radiation, currently being studied by instruments on satellites. According to ScienceDaily “Their figure is a very precise 0.96478. This is close to the current estimate of readings of the cosmic microwave background, which puts it around 0.968, with some margin of error”.

Magueijo commented: “The theory, which we first proposed in the late 1990’s, has now reached a maturity point - it has produced a testable prediction. If observations in the near future do find this number to be accurate, it could lead to a modification of Einstein’s theory of gravity. The idea that the speed of light could be variable was radical when first proposed, but with a numerical prediction, it becomes something physicists can actually test. If true, it would mean that the laws of nature were not always the same as they are today."

New Scientist, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: We would like to remind Magueijo, along with both creationists and evolutionists who are tackling some of the problems brought up by modern cosmology theories, that the theory of decreasing speed of light was not first proposed in the late 1990’s. In the early 1980’s Australian Barry Setterfield, with his colleague Trevor Norman from the Flinders University in Adelaide, proposed this theory. This editor attended one of his lectures on the subject in 1983, and Barry Setterfield had been working on it for several years before that. Setterfield did not pass the Politically Correct barrier as he was a creationist. Since then he has developed the theory further, and his research and reports can be read at: http://www.setterfield.org/.

It will be interesting to see what the results of Magueijo’s and Afshordi’s proposal turn out to be. However, their theory is still based on the Big Bang, which has other problems, so we caution anyone from getting too excited about it. Instead, we advise cosmologists and physicists to start with the word of the Creator, who said “Let there be light” in the beginning. (Ref. radiation, cosmos, astronomy, physics)

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 24
14 December 2016
Creation Research Australia

 

Dinosaurs had camouflage colours, according articles in Science (AAAS) News 14 September 2016, BBC News and ScienceDaily 16 September 2016 and Current Biology doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.06.065, published online 15 September 2016. Researchers from the University of Bristol, UK, along with colleagues from Hong Kong, USA and Germany, have studied the distribution of pigment in an “exquisitely preserved” fossil of a Cretaceous dinosaur named Psittacosaurus. This is a fairly small dinosaur with a beaked mouth and cone shaped structures, called jugal bosses, projecting sideways on either side of its face.

The researchers found the pigment distribution would have made it dark on its back and head, but light on its underside. This pattern of dark and light shading is called countershading, and is considered to be useful for camouflage as the dark back counteracts illumination by light coming from above.

With the help of an artist they constructed a model of the dinosaur, including the pattern of pigment in the skin, which they then studied in various locations in the Bristol botanical gardens. They also constructed a uniformly grey model which they also placed in various light conditions and studied the pattern of shadows falling on it. They concluded the dinosaur had a pigment pattern that would have provided good camouflage in forest conditions.

According to Jakob Vinther, who led the study. “These colour patterns are a testament to an arms race [between predator and prey] that took place 120 million years ago”. However, the researchers suggested the head pigmentation was also involved in signalling, especially as the face and jugal bosses were heavily pigmented and the jugal bosses seem to be made of softer material than normally forms hard horns.

BBC, Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: If any so called evolutionary “arms race” did take place, such a conflict could only be survived by creatures that already had camouflage colouring. Animals without it would be eliminated in the process of natural selection, because selection can only work on what already exists. It does not and cannot make any new characteristics. The pigmentation pattern may explain why creatures survive in a struggle for existence, but that does not explain how they got the patterns in the first place. The theory also assumes any pigmentation occurring before the “arms race” took place had no other function.

Now let’s take off your blind faith evolutionist glasses, and consider these dinosaurs in the light of Biblical history. In the beginning the world was very good, with no predators. As suggested by these researchers, the pigmentation of this dinosaur would have been for communication, i.e. species identification and attracting mates. The melanin on its back would also provide protection from any ultra-violet rays, just like melanin in our skin.

After the world degenerated and became filled with violence, animals that already had pigmentation patterns would have benefitted from any camouflage protection this provided. This protection would have been enhanced after Noah’s flood, when the environment was devastated and predators became common due to a lack of plant foods. In other words, the fact that animals have pigmentation patterns that can serve as camouflage is evidence of a degenerate world, not an evolving one. It simply can never explain where the pigment patterns came from in the first place. That is better explained by a creative designer who made living things to communicate with one another, and also to look attractive, and any post-fall and post-flood benefit is a plus. (Ref. skin, colour, reptiles)

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 23
6 December 2016
Creation Research Australia

 

Mud dragon escapes explosion, according to BBC News, Science (AAAS) News, ScienceDaily and Scientific Reports, 2016 doi: 10.1038/srep35780 published online 10 November 2016. The fossil of a sheep-sized theropod dinosaur was found by a Chinese construction crew who came close to blowing it to pieces when they were setting explosives at a construction site. Some of the fossil was destroyed by a dynamite blast, but most of it remained intact. The missing pieces included the ends of both forelimbs.

The fossil has been identified as being a member of “a family of feathered dinosaurs called oviraptorosaurs”. It was preserved lying on its belly with its limbs splayed out on either side of its body and its head and neck raised up. The scientists who studied it suggest it got trapped in mud and died while struggling to get up again. An artist’s reconstruction shows a hairy creature lying on a miry forest floor with outstretched arms covered in feathers and its head raised up looking towards the sky. The research team have named it Tongtianlong limosus, which means “muddy dragon on the road to heaven”.

BBC, Science, ScienceDaily 

Editorial Comment: Let us quickly review the evidence. All its bones, except for those damaged by the modern day explosion, are intact and connected to one another in the anatomical position. If it had died and then lay in the mud with most of its body above the surface it would have been destroyed by scavengers and decomposition processes. However, its head is not bent right back in the drowning death pose seen in many dinosaur fossils so it may not have drowned in water either. It is most likely it was buried suddenly in a large mass of muddy sediment, and technically ‘suffocated’ or drowned in a muddy mass which would account for the unusual splayed out position as well.

It is interesting to note that most reports about this fossil, including the Scientific Reports article, had the artist’s reconstruction showing its body covered in filaments and its forelimbs covered with feathers arranged like a bird wing. This is pure wishful thinking by people obsessed with the theory that dinosaurs evolved into birds. Although this dinosaur was described as being part of a “family of feathered dinosaurs”, this particular fossil did not have any feathers, or even any filaments that could be misconstrued as feathers.

Finally, here we have another example of the Chinese giving a dinosaur a name meaning dragon. They regularly name dinosaurs “something-dragon” and refer to dinosaur bones as dragon bones when talking about them in everyday speech. The Chinese recognise a dragon when they see one, because, unlike the fanciful feathers, somewhere in their history people have seen real dragons and described them. (Ref. reptiles, fossilisation)

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 23
6 December 2016
Creation Research Australia

 

‘Dinosaur age’ bird keratin found according to reports in ScienceDaily 21 November 2016, ABC News 24 November 2016 and PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617168113, published online 21 November 2016. In recent years scientists studying the microscopic structure of fossil birds and dinosaurs, have found small structures that look like melanosomes, granules containing the pigment melanin. There has been some debate as to whether these really are melanosomes, or microbes that were preserved along with the fossil.

In order to find evidence that these were melanosomes researcher Mary Schweitzer worked with Yanhong Pan, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues to study the microscopic structure of feathers of a fossilised bird named Eoconfuciusornis dated as Early Cretaceous, 130 million years old.

Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina State University explained: “If these small bodies are melanosomes, they should be embedded in a keratinous matrix, since feathers contain beta-keratin. If we couldn’t find the keratin, then those structures could as easily be microbes, or a mix of microbes and melanosomes - in either case, predictions of dinosaur shading would not be accurate”.

The fossil bird was found in the Jehol Biota site in China and has well preserved feathers. The researchers examined the feathers using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and also used a technique known as immuno-gold labelling to identify any preserved keratin. They also examined the distribution of sulphur and copper in the feathers. Sulphur is found in beta-keratin and a number of other proteins, but copper is only found in melanosomes. They found widespread sulphur in the fossil feathers, but copper was found only in the melanosome-like structures. According to ScienceDaily “These findings support both the identity of the melanosomes and indicate there was no mixing or leaching during decomposition and fossilisation”.

The research team wrote in the summary of their report: “Retention of original keratinous proteins in the matrix surrounding electron-opaque microbodies supports their assignment as melanosomes and adds to the criteria employable to distinguish melanosomes from microbial bodies. Our work sheds new light on molecular preservation within normally labile tissues preserved in fossils”. In their conclusion they suggest their methods could be used “to distinguish between keratinous feathers and skin-derived collagen fibres”.

Yanhong Pan commented: “This study is the first to demonstrate evidence for both keratin and melanosomes, using structural, chemical and molecular methods. These methods have the potential to help us understand - on the molecular level - how and why feathers evolved in these lineages”.

ABC, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: This was indeed a clever and meticulous study of fossil feathers, but it cannot show how and why feathers evolved. This fossil is definitely a bird, and no-one is claiming it is anything else. All this study can show is what fossil feathers are made of, and it revealed they are made of the same substances found in the feathers of living birds. Therefore, it is evidence that feathers have always been feathers, and have not evolved, no matter how old they are claimed to be.

The term “normally labile tissues” used by the scientists is a reference to the fact that proteins, like all large biological molecules degrade, due to normal chemical processes. The only reason people can stay alive for almost a century is because our proteins are being constantly rebuilt. Once a creature is dead its proteins break down. Keratin is a particularly tough protein because it is exposed to the outside environment as part of its normal function, but it will not last more than a couple of thousand years. Hair is made of keratin, and extremely fragile pieces of hair have been found in old graves and Egyptian mummies. However, even the toughest protein will decay over time by natural chemical processes. Proteins are long strings of small molecules called amino acids joined together by chemical bones known as peptide bonds. Peptide bonds have a half-life of around 400 years. (Ref: Ronald Raines of University of Wisconsin–Madison, Adv Exp Med Biol. 2009; 611: xci–xcviii) This means in 400 years half the peptide bonds will have broken down, in another 400 years half of the remaining half will have decayed, and so on until after 10 half-lives, i.e. 4,000 years there is less than a thousandth of the original peptide bonds still intact, which for a protein with around 100 amino acids means there would effectively be none left. Therefore, the claim that some unknown chemical preservation processes have kept these fossil keratin fibres intact for 130 million years is pure wishful thinking, not observed science.

The reference to distinguishing between collagen and keratin is, no doubt, a challenge to Alan Feduccia, an expert in fossil birds who is sceptical of the claims about feathered dinosaurs made on the basis of dinosaur fossils associated with filaments. Feduccia suggested these are collagen fibres, which are found in skin, becoming flayed out during decomposition of buried creatures. See our report: Dinosaur Feathers or Fibres, here. Whatever the outcome of testing these fossils might show, it would not solve the dilemma of the protein decay time. Like keratin, collagen is also a tough fibrous protein, but not as tough as to endure for millions of years. In spite of this Mary Schweitzer and associates have claimed to have found collagen in dinosaur bones dated as 68 million years old. See our report: T rex Proteins, here. (Ref. fossilisations, biochemistry)

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 23
6 December 2016
Creation Research Australia

 

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