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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Coffee! Things can't just be weird, can they?

From Live Journal via Mark Shea, originally at Why Evolution is True (Jerry Coyne's site), we have the Brazilian Treehopper, also this model ...

And if you think that's weird, see these. The funny part is the proposed Darwinian explanation:
A first guess is that it’s a sexually-selected trait, but those are often limited to males, and these creatures (and the ones below) show the ornaments in both sexes. Kemp hypothesizes—and this seems quite reasonable—that “the hollow globes, like the remarkable excrescences exhibited by other treehoppers, probably deter predators.” It would be hard to grab, much less chow down on, a beast with all those spines and excrescences.

Note, though, that the ornament sports many bristles. If these are sensory bristles, and not just deterrents to predation or irritating spines, then the ornament may have an unknown tactile function.
All of this assumes that, like your great-aunt's collection of porcelain mushrooms, the bug's globes can exist only if they have a practical purpose.

Oh and here is some fun with Mark Shea on a related theme: The Darwinist's uncanny ability to discern matters hid from unbelieving eyes:
All these "origin of religion" accounts seem to me to be transparently obvious demonstrations of the habit of many atheists of worshipping rather than using the intellect. The subtext of them is "I am a member of a new, radically evolved, and superior species that stands apart from and over homo religiosus. I know the inmost thoughts of people who lived 20,000 years ago. I understand the inner contours of the believing mind better than the believer does. And I can tell you that Christians believe in the the Creed because some cave dweller 20,000 years ago heard the wind in the branches and thought it was a god passing by, or had a bad dream and thus all humans came to believe in prophecy."
There you go, instant book deal and glowing reviews from the olds media.

Hat tip: The Sheepcat For more on Jerry Coyne, go here.

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Cambrian explosion: Let's just say that the Echinoderm family goes back a long way ...

British physicist David Tyler comments on new findings that intensify the impact of the Cambrian explosion of life forms, about 550 million years ago:
Echinoderm diversity traced back to Lower Cambrian

Some have argued that echinoderm diversity is an Ordovician phenomenon: linked to the Great Ordovician Diversification. Others make the case for the radiation to have initiated earlier. All seem to be agreed that the origin of echinoderms is shrouded in uncertainty. One major problem is that the relevant fossils are unfamiliar and often poorly preserved and there are often doubts about their classification. However, in June 2010, research was reported dealing with Middle Cambrian echinoderms from Spain.

"The new Spanish data suggest that a number of the clades involved in [the Great Ordovician] diversification (such as sucocystid cinctans, cothurnocystid stylophorans, ctenocystoids, and isorophid edrioasteroids) appeared significantly earlier in Gondwanan settings than previously thought. This shows that, even by the earliest middle Cambrian, a variety of novel body plans and ecological strategies already existed among echinoderms, pushing back the timing of important divergences into the lower Cambrian."

One of the Spanish fossils
A Middle Cambrian echinoid - a stromatocystitid edrioasteroid (source here)

For more, go here.


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