Archive of items from Evidence News

How to breathe under sand described in Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB) 16 November 2016, doi: 10.1242/jeb.151969. The sandfish lizard (Scincus scincus) lives in the North African sandy desert and spends most of its life buried in sand. Scientists who have studied this creature have wondered why it doesn’t end up with its lungs clogged with sand, so a group of researchers from Austria and Germany studied how the creature breathed in an otherwise suffocating environment.

They carefully examined its respiratory tract, lungs and the digestive tract of dead and preserved lizards, and noted that there was sand in the gut but none in the lungs of any specimens examined. They also noted there was no structure that looked like an air filter. The only unusual feature was a region where the airway became narrow, then wider, and then narrow again. They also recorded the breathing pattern of live lizards.

To work out how the lizards kept sand out whilst taking in air, they constructed a model of the respiratory tract using a scanner and 3D printer. They then buried this in sand and blew gas through it using the lizards’ breathing pattern, and found that as the flow slowed when it passed through the wide region, any sand grains carried in the airstream dropped out and were trapped in a layer of mucus on the surface of the airway. When the lizard next exhales forcefully it blows any trapped particles out.

The research team concluded that the lizard was able to keep its lungs sand-free by an “aerodynamic filtering system” which combined the structure of the airways with “specific ventilation patterns”. They also described the system as an “adaptation to life in aeolian sand”. (Aeolian means wind-blown, as in sand dunes)


Editorial Comment: Did you note how much design and engineering went into making the model airway and getting it to work? Yet this team of scientists and engineers were only copying one part a lizard system that already worked. It would have taken far more creative design to invent such a system from scratch.

Evolutionary biologists regularly refer to features that enable animals to live in specific environments as “adaptations”, but to do so they ignore the serious issues of how would a surface dwelling lizard develop this system from a normal lizards’ breathing system, and how would it know it had the right structure in its airways before it started burying itself in sand? Getting lungs clogged with sand is not going to make a lizard develop this system. It will simply smother it, and the animal would be another dropout in the struggle for existence. Time to be honest evos: what you generally refer to as adaptations are really good design features.

Note the scientists concluded this is a dynamic system, meaning it combines both structure and function in order to work. The ventilation pattern is just as important as the shape of the airway and the presence of a mucus layer. This means the animal’s brain also has to be programmed to run the breathing muscles correctly, as well as direct the burrowing behaviour. This is a good example of a system that will only work when all the components are in place, and all such systems require plan and purpose in order to design all features then combine their total structure and function into an integrated system.

Give up evos, it is far more logical to believe this creature was designed to be a burrowing animal and was created with the correct working features from the beginning. (Ref. design, reptiles, respiration)

Evidence News vo. 17, No.1
1 February 2017
Creation Research Australia


Cooking plants in a green Sahara, reported in Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 19 December 2016, BBC News 20 December 2016, and Nature Plants doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.194, published online 19 December 2016. A group of researchers from the UK and Italy have studied 110 broken pieces of pottery from archaeological sites at Takarkori and Uan Afuda in Libyan Sahara. Scientists analysed residues of oils and waxes from the fragments in order to find what the pots had contained. Fifty six of the pieces contained plant residues from grains, leafy vegetables and aquatic plants, indicating inhabitants of the site had regularly cooked and eaten a variety of plants, and made a type of porridge from the grains. This fits with previous finds in the same region where archaeologists have found remains of plants, along with stones that could be used to grind plants and seeds into flour, with a rock art picture of a human figure gathering plants.

This new analysis provides direct evidence that the inhabitants of this region cooked plants. The site is dated as 8,200–6,400 BC, making it the “earliest direct evidence for plant processing in pottery globally” according to the report in Nature Plants. Julie Dunne, of the University of Bristol School, who lead the study, commented: “Until now, the importance of plants in prehistoric diets has been under-recognised but this work clearly demonstrates the importance of plants as a reliable dietary resource. These findings also emphasise the sophistication of these early hunter-gatherers in their utilisation of a broad range of plant types, and the ability to boil them for long periods of time in newly invented ceramic vessels would have significantly increased the range of plants prehistoric people could eat”.

The Libyan Sahara is now a hot arid wilderness, where very few plants grow, but at the time this site was occupied it was well vegetated savannah with lots of rivers and lakes. Evidence for this “Green Sahara” has also been confirmed by another study of leaf waxes collected from marine sediments off the coast of West Africa carried out by scientists from USA and Sweden, published in Science Advances, 2017; 3 (1): e1601503 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601503 and reported in ScienceDaily 18 January 2017. The chemistry of leaf waxes in land plants varies depending on how dry or wet the climate was when the plant was growing, so researchers could get an idea of what the rainfall was as well as what types of plants were growing. According to Jessica Tierney of the University of Arizona, the lead author of the report, “It was 10 times as wet as today”.

BBC, Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: The usual evolutionary story of the origin of cooking is that primitive hunter-gatherers went from living on a meat diet with maybe some root vegetables cooked on a fire, to slowly progressing to cultivating crop plants along with the invention of pottery. However, none of these theories explain how supposed ape-like human ancestors worked out how to control fire and cook in the first place.

This new evidence of sophisticated people living in a lush environment, and gathering and cooking a variety of plants in pottery fits far better with the Biblical history of the world which informs us that firstly man started as a farmer and soon developed pottery, then 1600 years later, immediately after Noah’s Flood, the world was a moist, well vegetated place, and remained so for quite a while. After God’s judgement at Babel, people moved into the already lush northern Africa, bringing the knowledge of growing crops, cooking and making pottery. After all, they had just left a city where the main technology was baking bricks, and grand-daddy Noah was a grape farmer. As the North African climate became hotter and drier, the lakes and rivers dried up, and it was no longer possible to gather green plants or grow crops for food, so the people migrated elsewhere, leaving behind the evidence of their technology and of the previously lush environment. Climate change and environmental degradation are real, but they are part of the degeneration of the environment that started with human sin and accelerated after Noah’s Flood, and have been going on for thousands of years. (Ref. climate, technology, culture, diet)

Evidence News vol. 17, No.1
1 February 2017
Creation Research Australia


Living fossil fruit found, as reported in BBC News, Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 5 January 2017, and Science, doi:10.1126/science.aag2737, 6 January 2017. Lantern fruit are member of the genus Phytalis and include tomatillos and ground cherries. They are named “lanterns” because their berries are surrounded by a papery calyx, very like cape gooseberries.

Researchers from USA and Argentine have studied the fossil of a lantern fruit found in rocks in Patagonia dated as 52 million years old. The fossil has been named Phytalis infinemundi and consists of a berry turned to coal surrounded by a thin layer with very well preserved pattern of veins, just like the calyces of living members of the Phytalis genus.

Fossilised fruits are rare, as Peter Wilf, of Pennsylvania State University, who led the study, explained to the BBC: “It’s the only fossil fruit ever found of this whole group of plants, that now has over 2,000 species. A lot of the evolutionary history of life, especially plants, which are rare as fossils, is largely unknown. Here we have this discovery of these incredibly rare, delicate fossils - here you have a berry surrounded by this papery calyx – it’s almost unheard of that such a thing could be fossilised”. The researchers hope to find more fossil plants in the same region of Patagonia.

One of the scientists, Rubén Cúneo of Museo Palentologico Egidio Ferulgio, commented: “Palaeobotanical discoveries in Patagonia are probably destined to revolutionise some traditional views on the origin and evolution of the plant kingdom”.

BBC, Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Actually this new fossil tells us nothing about the evolution of the plant kingdom, simply because the coalified berry and its surrounding calyx are the same as the living lantern fruit, and show no signs of having evolved from other plants or evolving into a different one.

Peter Wilf is correct about fossil fruits being rare, especially with the degree of fine preservation seen in this fossil. We all know that fruit loses its structure very quickly if it falls to the ground and rots. This editor has a big garden and can confirm that present day Tomatillos and their relatives rarely last more than two weeks, even in the refrigerator. The degree of preservation seen in this new fossil shows it was buried very quickly and deeply. Any rock layer containing such fossil fruit with delicate structures preserved was, therefore, never laid down slowly and gradually as uniformitarian geologists claim.

If more fossil plants like this “living fossil” are found in Patagonia, the most revolutionary idea they should inspire is that these plants have not evolved, but rather show all the evidence consistent with having been created as fully formed functional separate kinds, which are still reproducing after their own kind, and have done since whenever they were rapidly buried until now, just as Genesis tells us. (Ref. fossilisation, palaeobotany, botany)

Evidence News vo. 17, No.1
1 February 2017
Creation Research Australia


More Laetoli footprints found, according to reports in BBC News, and Nature News 14 December 2017, and eLife 5:e19568. doi: 10.7554/eLife.19568, 14 December 2016. In 1976 Mary Leakey and colleagues found fossilised footprints in a layer of volcanic tuff (solidified volcanic ash) in Tanzania dated as 3.66 million years old. In spite of their human-like appearance the footprints were assigned to Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy’s species, rather than human beings. A team of palaeontologists working in the same region have now found more footprints approximately 150m (164yards) from the original site in the same layer of rock.

The prints are from two individuals, one larger than the other. There are 12 prints of the larger individual and one of a smaller individual. One set of prints is a trackway of four prints in typical human bipedal pattern. These prints are around 27cm long with deep oval heel impressions and a ridge at the front indicating the toes have gripped wet volcanic ash. The big toe is in line with the rest of the toes.

Bruce Latimer, a palaeoanthropologist at Case Western Reserve University, who worked on the original Laetoli prints, said the new prints added to evidence that the Laetoli individuals had human-like feet and commented: “The Laetoli prints would not attract attention on a modern beach”.

Using the depth of the prints and the stride length, the researchers estimate the individual who made them was 1.63m tall and weighed around 48kg. This is much larger that estimated sizes for Australopithecines based on their bones. The original prints and the other individual represented in the new find are much smaller, with estimated sizes between 1.1m and 1.49m. The research team claims the new large footprints are evidence that Australopithecines had sexual dimorphism, i.e. large differences in size between males and females, and they lived in groups consisting of one large male with a number of females.

Not all scientists are convinced of these conclusions. According to Nature News, Bruce Latimer thinks “conclusions about Australopithecus social groups should be taken with a pinch of salt”.

BBC, Nature

Editorial Comment: It is right to be sceptical about conclusions about Australopithecus social groups based on a few footprints, but not for the reasons palaeoanthropologists think. The real reason is there is no evidence ... nada … zilch … nothing to show that these footprints were ever made by Australopithecines!

The most famous Australopithecine is Lucy, whose partial skeleton was found far away in Ethiopia, and does not include feet. All other fossils of Australopithecines consist of many fragmentary pieces found in various sites in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, and none provide evidence of the size estimated from the new footprints. There are no foot bones associated with any Laetoli footprints, so claims about who made them must be based exclusively on evidence in the prints.

As Bruce Latimer commented, the new prints are clearly made by an upright bipedal creature who left footprints just like any from human footprints found on a modern beach. Therefore, the most logical conclusion from all observed evidence is that these were made by a group of human beings. The estimated sizes for the new Laetoli footprint makers would fit with one adult, probably a woman, or maybe a youth, along with a number of children. The reasons for assigning them to Australopithecus are evolutionists’ beliefs, i.e. the believed date of the rock layer, and the belief that humans had not evolved at this time. If they had been found in a rock layer with a younger date we have no doubt they would have been assigned to human beings. (Ref. anthropology, trace fossils, walking, gait)

Evidence News vol. 17, No.1
1 February 2017
Creation Research Australia


Lucy climbed trees and fell out, according to reports in ScienceDaily and New Scientistst 30 November, and PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166095, and ScienceDaily and Science (AAAS) 19 August 2016 News and Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature19332. Scientists at University of Texas (UT) Austin have scanned the bones of the original Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”) specimen using an X-ray CT scanner which enables scientists to examine the internal structure of the bones.

During life bones respond to the forces impinging on them from muscles and body movement, and increase their thickness where the strongest forces are applied. Therefore scientists can assess which parts of the body were most active and had the strongest muscles. A tree-climbing ape will show most strength in the arms and upper body, whilst humans, who walk on two legs, show most strength in the legs and pelvis.

Researchers compared the structure of Lucy’s arm and thigh bones with those of chimpanzees and humans and found that Lucy’s bone strength was more like chimpanzees than humans. According to Christopher Ruff, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who helped analyse the bone scans, the extra bone strength in the arms “would not be present unless Lucy mechanically loaded her upper limbs more than most modern humans”. He went on to comment: “Ours is the best evidence to date that A. afarensis actually spent a significant portion of their time engaged in arboreal behaviour”. (“Arboreal behaviour” means tree climbing.)

Lucy is generally claimed to have walked upright on the ground like humans, but the scans on the thigh bone indicate her walking style was different to human walking, in that she had to shift her upper body sideways over the supporting leg when lifting the other one off the ground in order to take a step. This is an inefficient style of walking that uses more energy and is not good for long distance walking.

The bone scans not only indicated Lucy spent most of her time moving about in trees, but also that she could have died from falling out of a tree. The bones showed multiple breaks, including a “four-part proximal humeral fracture” of the right humerus. This is a fracture of the upper arm bone near the shoulder caused by landing heavily onto an outstretched arm. There were also cracks in left shoulder, right ankle, knee, pelvis and first rib. According to John Kappelman, one of the University of Texas researchers, these are the “hallmark of severe trauma”. According to Science News, the UT team “calculated that the forces that fractured Lucy’s upper arm were equal to a fall from a height of about 13.7 meters — as high as a four-story building or the top of a tall tree, such as a mature acacia — at a velocity of about 59 kilometres per hour”. The breaks are sharp and show no sign of healing.

However, some fossil scientists, including Donald Johansen who was part of the team that found Lucy, are sceptical. Johansen commented: “Terrestrial animals like antelopes and gazelles, elephants and rhinos and giraffes — all these bones show very similar fracture and breakage patterns as Lucy. You can be sure they didn’t fall out of trees”. Paleoanthropologist Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley explained that most breaks in fossil bones are the result of geological processes, e.g. tectonic forces, soil movement, pressure from overlying sediments, and weathering.

New Scientist, Science, ScienceDaily 

Editorial Comment: Since these findings fit with previous studies of Australopithecine bones, which indicate their limb lengths, body proportions and brain size were all ape like, we are not surprised that Lucy had arm and thigh bones suitable for tree climbing rather than bipedal ground walking. It pays to remember the unpopular fact that the original Lucy skeleton does not have feet, in spite of all the claims that Lucy and other Australopithecines walked upright on human-like feet. Any human-like foot bones or footprints claimed to be Australopithecines, have never been found attached to an Australopithecine skeleton, but were classified as such only on the basis of the alleged age of the rock layers they were found in. See our report Lucy Gets a Bone Graft here.

The debate about the bone fractures is interesting. It may be a case of both sides are right. The humerus fracture is typical of what occurs from a hard landing on an outstretched arm. Some of the other fractures may have occurred at the same time, and it is possible that Lucy did die following this fall before any healing processes started. Fractures of the first rib are very rare, and are usually associated with severe trauma also involving the neck vertebrae. It is not possible to tell if this happened as the Lucy specimen has no neck vertebrae.

Furthermore, fossils do get cracks in them from various earth movements after they have been buried, so some of the breaks may have occurred later.

Whatever really happened to Lucy, these two studies of the bones confirm that Lucy was an extinct tree dwelling ape, who like living apes, may have spent some time on the ground, but was no human ancestor. (Ref. southern apes, fossilisation, biomechanics)

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 24
14 December 2016
Creation Research Australia