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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Scientists shocked: First animal complex, not simple

LiveScience outlines the shock that the comb jelly administered to scientists recently.

Early life researchers had assumed that sponges appeared first because they are so simple. A research team headed by Casey Dunn of Brown University in Rhode Island determined that the much more complex comb jelly came first. Which means that ...

Unlike sponges, comb jellies have connective tissues and a nervous system, and so are more complex. Though squishy and tentacled, they are not, however, true jellyfish as they lack the classic bell-shaped body and characteristic stinging cells.

The finding was unexpected because evolutionary biologists had thought that less complex animals split off and evolved separately first.

All this shock and awe comes from not taking the Avalon explosion and the Cambrian explosion of life forms seriously for what they can tell us about the real history of life, rather than the Darwinian fantasy.

(In fact, the Smithsonian secretary tried to bury the Cambrian explosion in the vaults in the basement.)

Evolutionary biologists are still looking for the long, slow upward plodding path that life never took.

Incidentally, the LiveScience staff note,
Though comb jellies are a common creature in the seas today, these modern specimens likely look very different from their early ancestors.

Don't count on that either.

A few years back (2004), I wrote an item for a science teachers' magazine, "Time Stands Still for Shell Guy?", detailing an equally remarkable discovery: An early crustacean that had fossilized so quickly in Herefordshire, United Kingdom, that its internal body plan was actually preserved.

The team led by David Siveter of the University of Leicester were able to completely reconstruct the fossil, a rare event: A recently found 425 million-year-old fossil crustacean apparently has the same internal organs as a modern one. Most news items on this find focused on the fact that Colymbosathos is the oldest “male” fossil (= the penis was visible). But the real story, for science, is the amazing stability of the key crustacean body organs over so vast an expanse of time.

Researchers working with Siveter found the ostracode in Herefordshire, and discovered that it has quickly mineralized, so that most of its body tissues were preserved. They seized the opportunity to shave the rock very finely and photograph all the shavings, which enabled a complete reconstruction - and pushed back knowledge of the group by 200 million years.


And what did they discover? "Researchers are puzzled as to why the ancient creature appears so similar to its modern relatives."

Sigh. To the extent that researchers simply try to confirm what they think must be true, they will just go on being "puzzled" every few years.

See also:

Biology's Big Bangs

The Avalon explosion: The dawn of life reveals yet another intricate puzzle

Critical Decisions in Science: The Smithsonian Secretary versus the Cambrian Explosion

Questions in Evolution: Animals suddenly appear and after that nothing much happens. Why?

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