Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Yet Another of Those 'Non-existent' Transitional Fossils!

A. afarensis juvenile foot DIK-1-1f.
DIK-1-1f shown in (clockwise from top left) medial, dorsal, and lateral views. To right, dorsal view of DIK-1-1f and the adult A. afarensis foot A.L. 333-115. Scale bars, 1 cm.
A nearly complete foot from Dikika, Ethiopia and its implications for the ontogeny and function of Australopithecus afarensis | Science Advances

Imagine, you're a creationist and you've spent hundreds of hours on the social media yelling at scientists and people who accept what science demonstrates over an over again as true beyond a shadow of doubt, telling them that there are no transitional fossils and that Charles Darwin said this would destroy his theory, and you keep being shown yet another example of a transitional fossil!

Maybe you've even spent hours indoctrinating your unfortunate home-schooled children that 'evolution' had been proved false because of this absence!

What do you do?

Well, of course, if you're a proper creationists you'll perform whatever mental gymnastics are needed to dismiss this new piece of evidence. You'll simply ignore it and deny ever having been shown it; you'll maybe abuse the scientists and claim they're part of an anti-religion conspiracy; you'll possibly dismiss it as a deformity, and you'll very probably post abuse about the person who showed it to you.

What you won't do is stop claiming there are no transitional forms because admitting that would cause creationism to collapse and be utterly destroyed.

So, while reading this, spare a thought for those forlorn creationists struggling to shut reality out and maintain their ludicrous fantasy in the face of evidence that they're wrong because of the terror of admitting they could be.

Every fossil gives us some bit of our past, [but] when you have a child skeleton, you can ask questions about growth and development—and what the life of a kid was like three million years ago. It's a magnificent find.

Professor Jeremy DeSilva, lead author.
Paleoanthropologist, Dartmouth College.
(Quoted in National Geographic)
The evidence in question is a nearly complete juvenile hominid (Australopithecus afarensis) foot from Ethiopia, dated to about 3.32 million years ago. Au. afarensis is the species to which 'Lucy' belonged. A new examination of the specimen has revealed a mosaic of features normally associated with bipedal, ground-dwelling hominins and arboreal apes, showing this this species walked upright much like anatomically modern humans, but their children could climb trees using a still-mobile big toe, or hallux.

In fact, it is exactly what you would expect to see in a species that was in transition between an arboreal and a mostly terrestrial existence. The children retained the ability of their more remote ancestors to quickly shin up the nearest tree in times of danger while the adults sorted the problem out.

The results of the investigation by a team from several American universities and research institutions was published a few days ago in Science Advances.

The functional and evolutionary implications of primitive retentions in early hominin feet have been under debate since the discovery of Australopithecus afarensis. Ontogeny can provide insight into adult phenotypes, but juvenile early hominin foot fossils are exceptionally rare. We analyze a nearly complete, 3.32-million-year-old juvenile foot of A. afarensis (DIK-1-1f). We show that juvenile A. afarensis individuals already had many of the bipedal features found in adult specimens. However, they also had medial cuneiform traits associated with increased hallucal mobility and a more gracile calcaneal tuber, which is unexpected on the basis of known adult morphologies. Selection for traits functionally associated with juvenile pedal grasping may provide a new perspective on their retention in the more terrestrial adult A. afarensis.

Au. afarensis is one of the strong contenders for the species that was ancestral to the first recognised hominin, Homo habilis, from which all subsequent archaic and modern hominins evolved. As the cases of H. naledi and Au. sediba, both from South Africa, show, the distinction between the Australopithecines and true humans (Homo genus) is blurred and probably arbitrary because what we have in reality is a diverging and diversifying patchwork of hominins across Africa who occasionally met and interbred and which was gradually changing over time into, eventually in one line, anatomically modern humans.

These intermediate, mosaic 'species' or snapshots of that gradual process over time are exactly what we would expect and are entirely predictable and predicted by the know science of evolution over time. It really does take a special form of mental gymnastics amounting to a pathological psychiatric condition to continue to deny the glaringly obvious, just to avoid the terror of accepting that precious dogmas are false.

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