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Showing posts with the label paleontology

Fossils, DNA, and Being Human

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Some scientists say they've learned that a 300,000,000-year-old whatsit was a very early version of lampreys.

That, Neanderthal DNA, and a newly-analyzed Tyrannosaur, gave me something to talk about today....

...I'll do my usual explanation of why God's design choices don't offend me: but first, a recap of why I don't miss the 'good old days.'...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Lizard-Fish, Fungi, and Change

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We're learning more about why ichthyosaurs died out. Climate change was almost certainly involved: but it wasn't our fault, and I'll get back to that.

Long before the first not-quite-an-ichthyosaur made the transition from land back to Earth's ocean, a tiny little fungus came ashore and started turning rock into soil....

...First, though, my usual spiel about why I'm not upset that Earth isn't flat, Adam and Eve aren't German, and poetry isn't science....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

New Species, Old Burial Site

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Scientists from University of the Witwatersrand found skeletal remains in South Africa's Rising Star Cave.

This is a big deal, since it's the largest collection of hominin bones found in a single spot: and these folks may have been burying their dead 2,500,000 years ago.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Big Eyes, Bonobo Squeaks

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Neanderthals apparently had bigger eyes than folks living today. One scientist says that means they didn't play well with others.

Bonobos, chimps living south of the Congo River, squeak. The squeaks are the same, whether they're happy, sad, or angry — and may tell us something about how language developed....

...I think accepting God's universe 'as is' makes sense, so I'll ramble on about hubris, movies, and St. Thomas Aquinas, before discussing Neanderthals and squeaking bonobos....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Early Hands, Mutant Mice

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Scientists created "super-intelligent mice" — but this isn't a cartoon, so the mice aren't hatching plans for world domination. The research may lead, eventually, to treatments for Posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease.

Other scientists found hand bones shaped pretty much like ours: from at least 1,840,000 years back....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Human Nature, Change, and Dinosaur Names

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Human remains in Sima de los Huesos/Pit of Bones show evidence of a lethal attack — 430,000 years ago. On the 'up' side, evidence of human compassion goes back 1,800,000 years.

The sauropod we've called "Brontosaurus" has that name again, probably, which gave me an excuse to mention Gertie the Dinosaur and Anne Elk's Theory on Brontosauruses....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Early Brood Care, Four-Eyed Cambrian Predator

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Yawunik kootenayi, that four-eyed critter in the video, was a big predator: during the Cambrian. A half-billion years later, a two-inch animal isn't all that large.

More recently, a tiny insect and her brood became fossils: giving scientists a rare glimpse of parental care during the Cretaceous....

Like I've said before, humans are animals: but we're not just animals. We have "dominion" over this world: but we don't own it. Our position is more like shop foreman or steward. One of our jobs is taking care of this world's resources: for our reasoned use, and for all future generations....

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From Trilobites to Whales: Getting Bigger

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Those trilobites were huge: in the Cambrian. These days, foot-long critters are common, and not particularly big.

Scientists thought related species of animals generally got bigger as they evolved: now a team has evidence to back up that assumption. We still don't know why critters usually get bigger, though.

That, and seven "croc" species sharing the same turf in the Amazon Basin — before the Amazon was there — is what I picked for this week's post....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Setting Earth's Thermostat

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Events like the Pinatubo eruptions of 1991 happen about once a century — on average — roughly.

Some scientists say that next time there's a Pinatubo-scale eruption, we should deploy a fleet of instrument-carrying aircraft, balloons, and satellites: to see exactly what happens when sulfur dioxide and other chemicals get dumped into the upper atmosphere.

We know that the stuff causes regional and global climate changes: but we don't know exactly how the process works.

There's more than pure scientific curiosity behind wanting this knowledge. Earth's climate is changing, which is par for the course: but we're at a point where our actions can affect climate.

The job at hand is leaning how Earth's climate works, how it changes, and what causes the changes. Then we'll decide what to do about that knowledge....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Baby Chickens, Numbers: and Studying an Old Skull

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Chicks and humans associate small numbers with the left side and large ones with the right. A scientists says this may mean that our 'number line' is a very old piece of neural hardware.

Other scientists are studying part of a skull that's from one of the earliest of today's sort of human to leave Africa.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Precision-Grip Thumbs and an A 'New' Archosaur

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Humans have hands. So do apes, monkeys, lemurs, and koalas. For that matter, a chameleon's feet look and act a lot like hands. But they don't have precision-grip thumbs that can line up with any finger.

We do: and apparently have had a firm grip on tools for over two million years.

Scientists had a pretty good idea about how the common ancestor of dinosaurs, crocodiles and alligators, and birds, developed. A quarter-billion-year-old fossil shows that the situation is more complicated than scientists thought....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Fossils in 2014: Weird Mouth, Feathers, and More

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That zipper-faced critter isn't, I think, the weirdest thing that's lived. Not when things that look like lily pads or mushrooms, and may be animals; and other critters with five eyes; are in the running.

That animal with the weird mouth is one of Sci-News.com's 'top paleontological discoveries' for 2014.

The discovery of color vision in a 300,000,000-year-old fish came out in late December: which may be why it didn't make the 'top discoveries' list.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Found: Genes for Fins, Paws, and Hands

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Scientists found the genetic code mice use for growing paws — in spotted gar, after they thought about what happened to fish 300,000,000 years back.

An amateur fossil hunter found a complete ichthyosaur skeleton in Wales, professional fossil hunters found parts of a critter that isn't quite an ichthyosaur in China, and other paleontologists described a cat-size dinosaur that lived in what's now Montana.

Still other scientists named a Cambrian — thing — after an esteemed colleague. Quite a few Cambrian critters are just like nothing that lives on today's Earth.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Homo Erectus Engraving, Long-Lost Relatives

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A researcher with a digital camera noticed faint marks on a half-million-old shell. It's the earliest known abstract mark: made by Homo erectus.

Scientists discovered genetic traces of a previously-unknown group of people, Denisovans, in a Neanderthal's DNA a year ago.

Detailed analysis of the Neanderthal DNA reveals details of that Neanderthal family's history: and a few genes from another previously-unknown group....

...The woman we know as KNM ER 3733 lived about 1,700,000 years ago....

...The human family has changed a bit since her time: most of us have shorter arms and legs now; our foreheads are smoother and more nearly vertical; and we're probably better at singing opera. I'll get back to that....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Beauty, Order, and Pterosaurs

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Scientists may have found an upper limit to pterosaur wingspans. A fossil ichthyosaur is our first look at how these marine animals returned to the ocean, and scientists found a spike-headed ankylosaur species.

I'm fascinated by this sort of thing. Your experience may vary....

...I saw the universe as a place of order and beauty before I became a Catholic. Now, I must see it as a place of order and beauty. It's 'in the rules.'...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Dinosaur Arms, and Ust'-Ishim Man's DNA

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Paleontologists uncovered a huge pair of arms, plus assorted ribs and vertebrae, in the Gobi Desert 49 years back. Discoveries since 2006 supplied the missing pieces of Deinocheirus, the largest known theropod dinosaur.

Other scientists are filling in more of humanity's family history, with 45,000-year-old DNA.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

African Wildlife: During the Cretaceous

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Scientists are are learning more about Africa's wildlife: as it was some 100,000,000 years ago....

...Maybe you've seen that "are you satisfied?" cartoon chap, Mr. Squibbs, in another 'A Catholic Citizen in America' post. If so, feel free to skip straight to my take on dinosaurs in the news.

If you're wondering what "tampering with things man was not supposed to know" and dinosaurs have to do with my faith — the short answer is that I'm Catholic, so using my brain is okay.

Despite what some tightly-wound folks seem to believe, science and Christianity, faith and reason, get along fine. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159)

I suspect part of problem some have with science is how big the universe is — and how years it's been since life began here on Earth....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Strange Critters, a Dinosaur, and Early Permian Night Hunters

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We're learning more about life on Earth: and finding that there's more to learn.

For example, those aren't mushrooms. Scientists think they're animals. Probably....

...God Thinks Big
If you've read other posts here, you probably know why I think God works on a cosmic scale, isn't overextended, and doesn't mind if we use our brains. (September 5, 2014; June 6, 2014)

If you haven't: here's what I think about God's universe....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Neanderthal Art, DNA MREs, and Sliding Rocks

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About 39,000 years back, maybe more, Neanderthals made a mark that looks like a hashtag. Maybe it was a 'you are here' sign, the first tic-tac-toe game, or something completely different.

I think humanity's back-story, implications of DNA's high phosphate levels, and why rocks (occasionally) move in Death Valley, are fascinating. Your experience may vary....

...Folks have known that God's creation is vast and ancient for thousands of years: and seemed confident that God wasn't overextended. ... I figure that part of my job is appreciating God's creation: not telling the Almighty how it should have been designed....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Cuddly Dinosaurs and Feathers

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That cute little critter isn't a bird, but it's covered in feathers: unless Kulinda insulation is something new. Newly-discovered, that is....

...Faced with our rapidly-expanding knowledge of Earth and the universe, folks have options. A person can decide that fuzzy dinosaurs don't matter in the everyday life, which is true.

Another option is to decide that humanity had all the answers in 3000 B.C., 350 B.C., 1654 A.D., or some other arbitrary date.

My preference is taking the universe "as is," acknowledging that we have learned a great deal: and most likely have a great deal more learn.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.