Brian Thomas Misses the Point

Biston betularia f. carbonariaI could use that headline for every article, but “Fossil Skin Pigment Evolved Three Times?” is a particularly strong example. A new paper in Nature – which you can read all about in this blog post by palaeontologist Shaena Montanari – investigated fossil pigment of three different extinct marine reptiles and concluded that the trait known as melanism had independently evolved in each of them. This is to say that a darker colouring, perhaps for the purposes of heat absorption and retention, was selected for and became dominant in each group of animals separately. But Brian Thomas has apparently misread this to mean that the pigment melanin, which is what produces the colour, independently evolved three times and has written a 13-paragraph article based on this misconception. Continue reading