The phrase "missing link" first appeared in print only four years after the publication of The Origin of the Species. By the end of that year, legendary paleontologist Richard Owen published a description of the fossil Archaeopteryx, the first specimen to carry that moniker. And with that, the concept of a "missing link" embedded itself in the popular imagination.
With missing links again thrust hastily and breathlessly into the spotlight again with the History Channel's hyped-through-the-roof unveiling of Ida, "the most important find in 47 million years," a look at missing links throughout history may help put things in perspective.
The term "missing link" first appearing in its modern connotation in 1863, and unfortunately, 146 years later, it hasn't lost any of its power. Yesterday, amid massive media coverage, the American Museum of Natural History, a team of European paleontologists, and the History Channel unveiled a spectacularly preserved primate fossil that they dubbed "the eighth wonder of the world."
Members of the Zosteropidae family are not birds of a feather. White-eyes, sparrow-like songbirds, are the fastest-evolving bird on record. According to a recent genetic analysis of several dozen subspecies by Chris Filardi, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, 80 species have emerged in the past two million years. Among vertebrates, only the cichlid fish evolves faster, probably due to abrupt changes in its geographically confined habitat, a common catalyst for speciation. But white-eyes populate three continents, so Filardi suspects that sexual selection and social behavior drives the birds' speedy diversification, which includes changing plumage and songs.
For months, scientists, educators, and textbook publishers across the country have waited as members of the Texas Board of Education squabbled over whether to remove three little words in their sciences standards: "truths and weaknesses." The controversy? The language—supported by creationists—requires biology teachers in Texas to discuss possible weaknesses in evolutionary theory, and has had implication for how evolution is taught across the country.
Today, scientists and educators across the country are watching Texas. Why? Because the Texas Board of Education begins a three-day public testimony today to decide whether the phrase “truths and weaknesses” should be included in the state’s science standards when discussing evolution. On Friday, the 15-member board will likely vote on whether this language should be included in textbooks, and their decision could sway how evolution is taught in biology classes around the country.
The movie Blue Velvet was creepy and sexy and intriguing and uncomfortable, but it ain't got nothing on Isabella Rossellini's roles as various sorts of horny insects and other small creatures. In the bizarre Green Porno series, she explains their reproductive habits, complete with lurid close-ups, costumes, moans and first-person narratives. Here she is as a bee,snail, earthworm, spider and dragonfly.
Fans of the series will be overjoyed to hear that Green Porno 2 is on its way. According to Ms. Rossellini, upcoming episodes deal with sea creatures, so hopefully we'll get some more on the joys of squid sex. And think how pretty she'd be as a one of the newly found rainbow jellyfish! I have no idea how jellyfish reproduce, so I'd watch that episode. "The animals that live in the ocean are so different than us. In their sexual behavior, marine creatures are even more scandalous than bugs," she says.
Also in today's links: more animal sex, chimps seeking honey, and a science minister who tried to dodge the evolution question.
Peking Man, a group of Homo erectus discovered in the 1920’s near Beijing (then Peking), China, has been back in the spotlight over the last few days. A new estimate from American and Chinese scientists dates the fossils (and their associated population of Peking men and women) 200,000 years older than earlier measurements. The researchers reported their finding on the cover of last week’s Nature.
By M. FarbmanPosted 02.18.2009 at 10:10 am 9 Comments
A class in creation studies at Liberty University appears to be as strange as one might expect. Best quote on the subject: "If a frog turns into a prince with a kiss then it's a fairy tale. If a frog turns into a prince over millions of years, it's science," says the director of the school's center for creation studies. "It's almost ridiculous."
Also in today's links: cell phone projectors, the next e-reader, and more.
Today, it’s a widely accepted fact that humans originated in Africa. But less than a century ago, anthropologists assumed that Eurasia was the birthplace of humanity. And scientists held onto that mistaken belief until one man took a stand that rewrote history.