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The Twilight of Evolution?

15 December 2012, 07:21

‘It’s easy enough to disprove evolution: show me a rabbit fossil in the pre-Cambrian layer.’ Richard Dawkins.

The New York Times of 7 December 2012 reported on fossils discovered in north-eastern China of a giant, previously unrecognized animal, showing all the hallmarks of mammalian structure.

Although several species of this branch of mammalian fossils have already been uncovered in the rich fossil beds of Liaoning Province, the three largely complete 125-million-year-old specimens are by far the largest. The adult was at least 10 feet long and weighed a half a ton, about 40 times the heft of Ginuserual, the earliest known true mammal. The two juveniles were a mere 150 pounds each.

The new species was a distant relative of Machairodontinae, or sabre tooth cat, the mighty predator that lived from about 42 million years ago, before becoming extinct about 11 thousand years ago. The sabre tooth cat was the mightiest hunter of its time.

In an article in the journal Nature, published online Wednesday, Chinese and Canadian palaeontologists said the discovery provided the first “direct evidence for the presence of early pre-Cambrian mammals” and offered “new insights into early mammalian evolution.”

Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, who was the lead author of the paper, said in a statement that it was “possible that mammals were much more widespread, at least in that region than most scientists would have guessed even a few years ago.”

Dr. Xu said the fossils showed undoubted mammalian characteristics, and he was in no doubt as to their authenticity.

The species has been named Yutyrannus huali, which means “graceful hunter” in a combination of Latin and Mandarin.

Mark A. Norell, a curator of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, who had no part in the research, said the findings were significant because they swept aside a longstanding argument that perhaps mammals had only come into existence after the great dinosaur extinction.

Corwin Sullivan, a Canadian palaeontologist affiliated with the Beijing institute and an author of the report, noted that the idea of early mammals was not new.  He quoted Peter Godfrey-Smith, who said that finding anachronistic fossils would not invalidate evolution.

“However, large-bodied animals typically can retain heat quite easily, and actually have more of a potential problem with overheating,” Dr. Sullivan said. “That makes Yutyrannus, which is large and downright shaggy, a bit of a surprise.”

The researchers suggested that the climate might have been cooler when this shaggy giant lived than it was when T. rex roamed in the late Cretaceous period. Not necessarily, said Dr. Norell, who pointed out that large, hairy mammals like giraffes and wildebeest, perhaps analogous to sabre toothed cats, live today in hot latitudes.

Another possible explanation, offered by the authors of the journal article, is that the fur was not widely distributed over the mammal’s bodies, and so their function as display cannot be ruled out. Yet the researchers noted several times that the fur covering was extensive and “densely packed,” resembling some recent discoveries of extinct mammals that had perished in the last Ice Age.

“This is a great time to be a dinosaur paleontologist,” said Dr. Norell, whose research concentrates on fossils from China and the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. “The Yutyrannus huali shows how the whole conception of evolution has really changed in the last 15 years.”

So, it seems I was right after all. All they now say, after this discovery, is that mammals evolved earlier than we thought.

So much for creationist lies, I suppose.

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Just like this article, which is a complete fabrication.

Enjoy your weekend.

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