F Rosa Rubicondior: Monkeying With Creationist Fossils

Friday 17 May 2013

Monkeying With Creationist Fossils

Rukwapithecus (foreground) and Nsungwepithecus (background).
Credit: Mauricio Anton
Creationism has taken such a battering recently that one is almost tempted to feel sorry for frauds like Ken Ham, Eric Hovind, Dwayne Gish and the professional liars at the Discovery Institute. It must be a bit like standing in a tornado trying to shelter under an umbrella just to keep the ignorant loons who give them money from finding out the truth.

Hot on the heels of the news that modern non-African peoples interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans to form a possible human ring-species, showing that human speciation was in progress only a few thousand years ago, and the news that a seven million year-old earliest human fossil had been found showing intermediate 'transitional' characteristics between humans and chimpanzees, comes news that the earliest common ancestor of both apes and Old World monkeys has now been found. It's a delicious irony that today's slap in the face for primitive Creationists is news about the evolution of humans from monkeys.

The Scientist today has an article by Ed Yong about a letter published in Nature by N.J. Stevens et al., ("Palaeontological evidence for an Oligocene divergence between Old World monkeys and apes.

Apes and Old World monkeys are prominent components of modern African and Asian ecosystems, yet the earliest phases of their evolutionary history have remained largely undocumented. The absence of crown catarrhine fossils older than ~20  million years (Myr) has stood in stark contrast to molecular divergence estimates of ~25–30  Myr for the split between Cercopithecoidea (Old World monkeys) and Hominoidea (apes), implying long ghost lineages for both clades. Here we describe the oldest known fossil ‘ape’, represented by a partial mandible preserving dental features that place it with ‘nyanzapithecine’ stem hominoids. Additionally, we report the oldest stem member of the Old World monkey clade, represented by a lower third molar. Both specimens were recovered from a precisely dated 25.2-Myr-old stratum in the Rukwa Rift, a segment of the western branch of the East African Rift in Tanzania. These finds extend the fossil record of apes and Old World monkeys well into the Oligocene epoch of Africa, suggesting a possible link between diversification of crown catarrhines and changes in the African landscape brought about by previously unrecognized tectonic activity in the East African rift system.

The team found fragments of two different species; one of which is the oldest known Old World monkey (Nsungwepithecus gunnell) and the other of which is the oldest known hominoid (Rukwapithecus fleaglei). Both specimens were found in the same 25.2 million year-old stratum showing that diversification of the two families was well under way at that point in Earth's history.

As Ed Yong points out in The Scientist:

Nsungwepithecus sits on the stem of the Old World monkey clade, appearing before the last common ancestor of all living species within this group. Similarly, Rukwapithecus sits on the stem of the hominoid clade, within a group of obscure extinct primates called the nyanzapithecines.

Stevens clarifies that although some previously discovered hominoids may have evolved earlier than Rukwapithecus, its fossils are the oldest yet discovered for this group. But David Begun, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Toronto, is not sure. He thinks that Kamoyapithecus - another Oligocene primate that lived 27 million years ago in Kenya - might also be a hominoid. He even wonders if it was the same animal as Rukwapithecus, since one is known from upper teeth and the other from lower ones.

The significance of this find is that it brings the fossil evidence into line with the molecular evidence, placing diversification of these two primate families at about 26-27 million years ago in Africa, entirely in line with the theory of common descent with modification taking place over time in a very old Earth.

It must be hard being a Creationist fraud when those nasty little facts keep hitting you in the face and making a monkey of you again. No wonder they are so skilled at ignoring facts because, just like ignoring tornadoes - everyone knows it makes them go away.

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  1. in 3..2..1..

    "Ah but now instead of one gap in the fossil record this has created 4 gaps",
    "All the work of evilutionists is simply creating extra gaps in the record proving that evilution is wrong",
    "They're all fakes",
    "The rocks can't be more than 6K yrs old because my old book says they can't"

    Anyone care to add any more?

  2. Thanks for another interesting and thought provoking article on the evolutionary process that has brought us here.But I suspect if your hoping for this further weight of evidence to have any effect on the ranks of looney creationists I wouldn't hold out much hope, my suspicion is their either mentality incapable of simple logical thinking,or its more lightly they realise the argument is lost and Plough on regardless to ashamed to admit it.

  3. I can only guess the creationists will follow the Nature link, see the title and come back and cry."But I am not an ape!"
    And so the ignorance cycle keeps unfloding


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