That’s no beaver

Brian Thomas writes:

Researchers in 2006 described a fossil they named Castorocauda. They found it in a sedimentary layer mixed with pterosaurs, insects, amphibians, a dinosaur, and a gastropod. It “has a broad, flattened, partly scaly tail analogous to that of modern beavers.” Maybe it was a beaver.

(“Devils, Dinosaurs, and Squirrel Fossils,” January 2015 Acts & Facts)
That’s a common idea expressed by creationists – they don’t like the fact that the organisms alive in the past were different to those around today, so wouldn’t it be great if they were actually the same? Unfortunately for the creationists, these are testable claims. Continue reading

The Case of the Missing Polyploidy

Osmunda regalis, a royal fern

Osmunda regalis, a royal fern.

For Wednesday 16 April Brian Thomas writes: “Fossil Plant Chromosomes Look Modern.”

An 180 million year-old royal fern fossil has been discovered in Sweden that is so stunningly preserved that it still shows the components of individual cells. The nucleus – and even the nucleolus – can be easily seen, and cells that appear to be in the process of division show their chromosomes. The paper, “Fossilized Nuclei and Chromosomes Reveal 180 Million Years of Genomic Stasis in Royal Ferns,” in Science, is unfortunately closed access, but has pictures. The preservation is good enough, in fact, that the researchers report that they’re basically the same as in living royal ferns. The “living fossil” creationist argument is probably well familiar to you, so the content of Thomas’ article shouldn’t be all that surprising. Continue reading

Tim Clarey’s Better Explanation

About a week ago at his blog Naturalis Historia Joel Duff discussed the recent discovery in Argentina of the 240 million year old fossilised remains of a communal dinosaur latrine [EDIT: silly me, they’re not dinosaurs but Dinodontosaurs]. I suggest you go there for the details, but the most important point is that we have a number of sites of ~900 square metres in area and containining tens of thousands of individual coprolites (fossil poop). When originally reading his post I thought to myself that if I ended up writing my own piece on the subject it would be called “giant steaming piles of dinosaur shit” – while I have clearly changed my mind since this will still do for a subtitle, for reasons that will become clear.

Duff asked: “how [do] young earth creationists (YECs) interpret this fossil find?” Timothy L. Clarey, in Digging Into a Fossil Outhouse, provides an answer. He opens his article:

A group of paleontologists reported the discovery of concentrated fields of fossilized dung, called coprolite, in northwest Argentina. The closely-spaced dung piles are seen as evidence of gregarious behavior from large herbivores. However, does the great Flood provide a better explanation? Continue reading

The Hongshan Pig Dragons

Ceratopsid skeletonYou may have heard of a new baby ceratopsid skeleton from Alberta, Canada. It’s quite well preserved, is about 70 million years old, and is the smallest skeleton from this group of dinosaurs found. Curiously Brian Thomas turns this into a “dragons were dinosaurs” story, and writes Dinosaur Youngster Looks Like Dragon Figurines. As usual with this topic – in which a creationist claims that a particular artefact or artistic depiction means that its ancient creator saw a real live dinosaur (therefore the Earth is 6,000 years old) – it’s basically impossible to know what the true origin of the image was, but I feel that I can show that there are enough holes in Brian Thomas’ story to demonstrate that his is not the correct explanation.

But before we get to that it’s time for a quotemine alert: Continue reading

On Top of the World

We seem to be making an overdue time jump into November: Brian Thomas’ article for Monday is called Tibetan Cat Fossil: A Tall Tale? He opens:

An international research team claims to have found the world’s oldest big cat fossil in Tibet, publishing their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Big cats include lions, tigers, jaguars, and even snow leopards from Asia. The team dated several snow leopard-like partial fossils at between 4.1 and 5.95 million years old and a complete skull at around 4.4 million years. But how did the authors obtain these large numbers?

Continue reading

Meet Brian Thomas

Apologies for the impromptu hiatus (I’m really bad at doing that, aren’t I?) – I had exams, and decided that it was best if I didn’t do anything here for the duration. They’re over now, and so it’s time for the lesser 2013 catch-up.*

From what I see, which is mostly their online stuff, the ICR has not been all that busy in the meantime. The That’s a Fact site, for example, has not only not published a new video but they have in fact ceased to provide information about when the next episode will appear. The Your Origins Matter site, meanwhile, hasn’t published a new post in a week. One that they did post during my hiatus was a short interview with Brian Thomas in which he talks about fossil biochemistry (i.e. soft tissues). Because it’s been long enough since they originally posted it the video has also been uploaded to youtube, meaning that I can embed it below: Continue reading

Intact Dinosaur Skin

Canadian dinosaur skin (cropped)On Monday Brian Thomas wrote Scientist Stumped by Actual Dinosaur Skin. The topic is a sample of “intact” dinosaur skin – one of only three known worldwide – which is to be examined by the Canadian Light Source* (CLS) synchrotron. This is therefore a “soft tissues” topic, a subject which we last examined only last week.

Thomas’ title is pleasingly alliterative, but it is clear that he is misrepresenting the tone of the CLS press release – which seems to be all the source material we have to go on, unless this Flickr link starts working again before I finish here [just in time, it has – here’s the relevant gallery, including the picture above right, though it doesn’t tell us much that we don’t already know]. The scientists are not “baffled,” but they are instead intensely curious, and there is quite a difference between those two responses. Continue reading

Swimming with Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs left plenty of bones, but some also created another type of fossil: preserved track marks. A handful of these tracks were made from swimming dinosaurs, and a new paper in the Chinese Science BulletinA new Early Cretaceous dinosaur track assemblage and the first definite non-avian theropod swim trackway from China (open access) – reports on the discovery of one such find.

Timothy L. Clarey’s new article on these tracks is called Dinosaurs Swimming out of Necessity, but the “necessity” conclusion is entirely his own. His article is quite similar to one from Brian Thomas published in January which we looked at in Stampede? For instance both Thomas and Clarey chose to claim in their opening paragraphs that, in the present day, it is very difficult to form footprints that will eventually be preserved as fossils – here’s Clarey’s opener:

What’s so fascinating about dinosaur tracks? Maybe it’s because their many mysteries beg for solutions. For instance, because tracks in mud are so short-lived today, how did dinosaur tracks ever preserve in the first place? Newly described prints bolster biblical creation’s explanation of dinosaur footprints.

It may be true that it’s hard to preserve footprints in mud, but it’s not so improbable once you consider the shear number of footprints that would have been made over the more than 180 million years of the Mesozoic Era. Clarey never does explain, meanwhile, how “biblical creation” suddenly makes preservation so much easier – not even a “footprints need to be preserved rapidly” claim (which is false, by the way). Continue reading

Variation Within the Human Kind

Well that was fast: in the form of New African Fossil Confirms Early Human Variations Brian Thomas already has an article on the new Homo rudolfensis fossils. The standard creationist strategy when it comes to hominin fossils is to obfuscate, claim that all fossils can be neatly divided into ‘human’ and ‘ape,’ and then obfuscate again for good measure. Insinuating the possibility of fraud by bringing up past examples, claiming deceit or other bad practise in the fossil discovery and excavation, and arguing that this or that trait cannot be determined from the evidence are all tactics that play a role in the obfuscation. Thomas’ new article is textbook, except that he doesn’t seem to want to be completely pinned down over which side of the divide the new fossils lie on.

The cover of the August 9, 2012 issue of the journal Nature featured the reconstructed face of newly-discovered human-like fossil bones described by Meave Leakey and colleagues in their report.

Indeed it did, or close enough anyway: Continue reading

Moth Colouration

The DpSU for Thursday was called Fossil Moth Still Shows Its Colors. The subjects are 47 million year old moth fossils from the Messel Pit, for which the chitin nanostructure that causes their colour has (more-or-less) survived.

But, according to Mr Thomas, that’s impossible: Continue reading