Evolutionary Hype Over Newly Discovered Fossil

One of the things that makes a pretty big buzz in the area of evolutionary biology is reporting on finding supposed “missing links.” National Geographic reports a fossil that is believed to be a walking seal…

“Measuring about three and a half feet (110 centimeters) long, the 20- to 24-million-year-old “walking seal” had heavy, muscular limbs like those of a land mammal, a long tail, and webbed feet.

Unlike the shuffling seals of today, the newfound species may have walked as gracefully as it swam, researchers say.

If the finless seal looks slightly less than odd, it may be because of its resemblance to a modern otter, which lead study author Natalia Rybczynski agreed “to some extent, ecologically” could be “a modern analogy for these early pinnipeds.”

National Geographic is claiming it’s “sealing the evolutionary gap” or really? According to nature, there was a similar fossil found named; Potamotherium, yet nobody was claiming this fossil was the missing link to seals!

Another problem is where the sister fossils were found. There is the Puijila was found near Greenland while Potamotherium as I mentioned earlier, this fossil was found in Europe, and Enaliarctos which was discovered on the northwest shores of North America. It seems unrealistic that these animals traveled so far in the world during their supposed evolutionary path.

Not surprisingly, the new fossil was difficult to classify for the discovers but were aided by a computer software program using much subjectivity in their conclusions.

“With Enaliarctos considered the earliest pinniped, there exists a major transformational gap between a terrestrial ancestor and the appearance of flippered pinnipeds,” they admitted in the introduction.”

“Indeed, most studies of pinniped relationships and evolution do not consider the critical first evolutionary stages that ultimately gave rise to this successful group of marine carnivores.”

Enter Puijila, a “small mammalian carnivore,” to the rescue: “Puijila is a morphological intermediate in the land-to-sea transition of pinnipeds and provides new evidence concerning the evolution and biogeography of the earliest pinnipeds.”

To overlook this problem of the evidence of this supposed “missing link” of a seal, animation, movies, Flash multimedia and Powerpoint slides were provided by the authors of the paper which is great for story telling, like claiming a “morphological intermediate” not a  temporal intermediate but all of their dancing around the evidence to hype up a story is certainly not true science!


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