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Scientists Find Lamprey A 'Living Fossil': 360 Million-year-old Fish Hasn't Evolved Much
Science Daily.com ^ | October 26, 2006 | University of Chicago Medical Center

Posted on 10/26/2006 11:28:10 AM PDT by aculeus

Scientists from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the University of Chicago have uncovered a remarkably well-preserved fossil lamprey from the Devonian period that reveals today's lampreys as "living fossils" since they have remained largely unaltered for 360 million years.

Scientists from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the University of Chicago have uncovered a remarkably well-preserved fossil lamprey from the Devonian period that reveals today's lampreys as "living fossils" since they have remained largely unaltered for 360 million years. The scientists describe the new find in the article, "A lamprey from the Devonian of South Africa," to be published in the Oct. 26, 2006, issue of Nature. (Image courtesy of University of Chicago Medical Center) Chicago's Michael Coates, PhD, joined Witwatersrand's Bruce Rubidge, PhD, and graduate student and lead author Rob Gess to describe the new find in the article, "A lamprey from the Devonian of South Africa" to be published in the Oct. 26, 2006, issue of Nature.

"Apart from being the oldest fossil lamprey yet discovered, this fossil shows that lampreys have been parasitic for at least 360 million years," said Rubidge, director of the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research.

Lampreys are long, eel-like parasites that attach themselves to and feed on other fish. Of the 46,000 known species of vertebrates, lampreys and hagfish are the only surviving jawless vertebrates. Lampreys are the most "primitive" of the vertebrates, meaning that they are the least changed from the first vertebrates. Besides lacking jaws, lampreys have no paired pectoral and pelvic fins, and no scales.

"This fossil changes how we look at lampreys today," said Coates, associate professor of organismal biology and anatomy. "They're very ancient, very primitive animals, yet with highly specialized feeding habits."

It reveals that the anatomical evolution of lampreys is more conservative than scientists thought, Coates added. Although they've gotten slightly longer, they specialized early and successfully and thus appeared to have stayed much the same for the past 360 million years.

"This discovery is a monument to the dedication and passion of [Gess], who has spent many months patiently excavating and unearthing the elusive secrets from the prehistoric past," Rubidge said.

Gess found the new specimen, Priscomyzon riniensis, 18 months ago in an ancient estuary in Grahamstown, South Africa. Preserved showing the underside, the fossil measures less than 2 inches long and reveals a set of 14 teeth surrounding the mouth that is proportionately larger than its descendents today.

"The most striking feature of Priscomyzon is its large oral disc, edged with a soft outer lip, supported by an annular cartilage, and surrounding a circular mouth," the authors wrote. "This is the first clear evidence of a Palaeozoic lamprey with an oral disc."

According to the scientists, this find greatly adds to what was a severely limited lamprey fossil record and, for the first time, places the origin of modern lamprey morphology deep within the Palaeozoic period. It adds essential new detail to the emerging and changing picture of early vertebrate evolution.

Until now, the lamprey fossil record included only those that show a side view but reveal little of the gill basket and feeding apparatus. However, earlier this year, Nature reported on a freshwater lamprey fossil found in the Jehol biota of China (Inner Mongolia) from the Early Cretaceous period (about 125 million years ago).

The newly discovered South African fossil shows that these anatomically specialized fish are "holdovers" from ancient marine ecosystems, Coates said. Obviously exceptional survivors, these animals predate the advent of modern fish and have survived at least four major extinction events.

"There are few representatives of these early branches in vertebrate evolution that are still around today," Coates said, which is why so much scientific attention has been paid to lampreys. Although highly specialized in their own right, these primitive animals are used as surrogate ancestors for comparative research on living jawed vertebrates.

"It gives us a calibration point," Coates said. "We study lampreys because, in many respects, they're so primitive. They never had jaws, they never had [true] teeth, they never had fins, they never had limbs. Lampreys provide a glimpse of conditions early in vertebrate evolutionary history."

Because lampreys do not have bone or any substantial cartilage, they are extremely rare as fossils. This fossil not only reveals a nearly complete soft tissue impression, but it also pushes back their fossil record another 35 million years.

"These are pretty insubstantial animals," Coates said. "Lacking a boney skeleton, they rot down, leaving no hard parts, like a skull or ribs. So if a fossil site is discovered that yields impressions of the delicate remains of these animals, then this site needs to be explored thoroughly for other examples of exceptional preservation."

The scientists will continue to sort through much of the indeterminate material that is emerging from the ongoing dig.

Nearly 50 species of lampreys are found today in temperate rivers and coastal seas. Some species live in fresh water for their entire lives, but most are anadromous, hatching in fresh water, migrating to the ocean to grow and mature, and migrating back to fresh water to spawn and reproduce.

When adult lampreys return to fresh water, they stop feeding during winter and spawn the following spring. Eggs hatch after approximately three weeks and become blind larvae, called ammocoetes. After four to seven years, the ammocoetes metamorphose into juvenile lampreys called macropthalmia, which migrate out to the ocean and become parasitic adult lampreys, living just a year or two and growing up to 2 feet long.

Abundant in the Northeast United States, lampreys have a sucker-like mouth with a ring of cartilage that supports the rim of the mouth. It fastens on to a living fish with its teeth, rasps at the host's soft tissues with its piston-like tongue, produces strands of mucus to trap the food and feeds on the body fluids. A fish attacked by lampreys may be severely injured or even killed.

Copyright © 1995-2006 ScienceDaily LLC


TOPICS: Extended News
KEYWORDS: crevolist
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1 posted on 10/26/2006 11:28:13 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: aculeus
...rasps at the host's soft tissues with its piston-like tongue

I think they stole that from a Danielle Steele novel...

/h

2 posted on 10/26/2006 11:30:36 AM PDT by IllumiNaughtyByNature (If a pug barks and no one is around to hear it... they hold a grudge for a long time!)
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To: aculeus

Yes, but since the world was created 5,000 years ago, you would not expect that it's evolved much.


3 posted on 10/26/2006 11:31:20 AM PDT by Brilliant
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To: aculeus

IBHTP


4 posted on 10/26/2006 11:32:02 AM PDT by BenLurkin ("The entire remedy is with the people." - W. H. Harrison)
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To: aculeus

Hasn't evolved much? The Gouldians aren't going to like this.


5 posted on 10/26/2006 11:34:24 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: aculeus

Most parasites like lampreys, mosquitos, and liberals remain pretty much unchanged throughout earths history. I'm sure we will soon be digging up some old hippies fossil that proves that any day now.


6 posted on 10/26/2006 11:36:42 AM PDT by Dreagon
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To: aculeus
They said Helen Thomas hasn't evolved much over the past few hundred million....

I could not resist.
7 posted on 10/26/2006 11:41:40 AM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: BenLurkin

Don't even think about it!.........


8 posted on 10/26/2006 11:41:41 AM PDT by Red Badger (CONGRESS NEEDS TO BE DE-FOLEY-ATED...............................)
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To: All
Lampreys are the most "primitive" of the vertebrates, meaning that they are the least changed from the first vertebrates.

I thought all vertebrates by definition had back bones. But ...

"These are pretty insubstantial animals," Coates said. "Lacking a boney skeleton, they rot down, leaving no hard parts, like a skull or ribs. So if a fossil site is discovered that yields impressions of the delicate remains of these animals, then this site needs to be explored thoroughly for other examples of exceptional preservation."

Explanation?

9 posted on 10/26/2006 11:45:19 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: af_vet_rr

10 posted on 10/26/2006 11:47:03 AM PDT by Vasilli22 (http://www.richardfest.blogspot.com/)
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To: aculeus

It has a cartilage skeleton, like a shark. No bones.


11 posted on 10/26/2006 11:49:04 AM PDT by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: aculeus
360 Million-year-old Fish

I must have dated her.

12 posted on 10/26/2006 11:51:47 AM PDT by Lazamataz (Islam is a pathological disorder masquerading as a religion.)
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To: onedoug
Hasn't evolved much? The Gouldians aren't going to like this.

What are you talking about? In fact, this kind of thing is exactly what Gould was most famous for arguing. Lampreys clearly stumbled upon a successful niche, and have had no reason to evolve significantly.

13 posted on 10/26/2006 11:53:30 AM PDT by Alter Kaker ("Whatever tears one sheds, in the end one always blows one's nose." - Heine)
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To: aculeus

Hmmm...hasn't changed much in 360,000,000 years. So, why not? Did all the random mutations just never find themselves in a favorable environment to be selected? I don't get it.


14 posted on 10/26/2006 11:55:25 AM PDT by mutley ("I read the Koran, and didn't find anything of value in it.")
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To: mutley

Don't ask questions, just play along.


15 posted on 10/26/2006 11:57:50 AM PDT by OriginalIntent (Undo the ACLU revision of the Constitution. If you agree with the ACLU revisions, you are a liberal)
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To: Oberon
It has a cartilage skeleton, like a shark. No bones.

Thanks.

16 posted on 10/26/2006 11:57:59 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: aculeus
IIRC: This was our first dissection in my Freshman year Zoology (Part 2) course, since it represents one of the first Vertebrates (back boned; notochord) animals. Part 1 (the first half-year of the course) was taken up with the Invertebrates.

Ugly little 'suckers'.

17 posted on 10/26/2006 12:00:53 PM PDT by DoctorMichael (A wall first. A wall now.)
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To: DoctorMichael


18 posted on 10/26/2006 12:06:00 PM PDT by DoctorMichael (A wall first. A wall now.)
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To: aculeus
have uncovered a remarkably well-preserved fossil lamprey from the Devonian period that reveals today's lampreys as "living fossils" since they have remained largely unaltered for 360 million years.

Unaltered for 360 million years? Back to the books for evolutionists. Since a lamprey didn't need to evolve this means that humans didn't either. That's what I get out of this.

19 posted on 10/26/2006 12:10:58 PM PDT by taxesareforever (Never forget Matt Maupin)
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To: taxesareforever
That's what I get out of this.

Then you need to read up on evolution.

20 posted on 10/26/2006 12:12:29 PM PDT by green iguana
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To: taxesareforever
"Since a lamprey didn't need to evolve this means that humans didn't either."

Where did you get that idea?
21 posted on 10/26/2006 12:15:04 PM PDT by Boxen (Branigan's law is like Branigan's love--Hard and fast.)
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To: green iguana
Then you need to read up on evolution.

Evolution needs to get its stories straight. Constantly revising is not an answer.

22 posted on 10/26/2006 12:15:28 PM PDT by taxesareforever (Never forget Matt Maupin)
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To: Boxen
"Since a lamprey didn't need to evolve this means that humans didn't either."

Where did you get that idea?

I used my unevolved brain.

23 posted on 10/26/2006 12:17:24 PM PDT by taxesareforever (Never forget Matt Maupin)
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To: taxesareforever
Unaltered for 360 million years? Back to the books for evolutionists. Since a lamprey didn't need to evolve this means that humans didn't either. That's what I get out of this.

Since rocks don't need to fall of cliffs, I guess none ever have. That's what I got out of that.

24 posted on 10/26/2006 12:27:28 PM PDT by bobdsmith
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To: aculeus
I thought all vertebrates by definition had back bones. But ...

Chordates with a cartilaginous spine.

25 posted on 10/26/2006 12:28:07 PM PDT by Lee N. Field
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To: taxesareforever
Unaltered for 360 million years?

Yes! They were quite successful in finding a valuable niche and exploited it against all-comers.

Back to the books for evolutionists.

Nonsense. See my Post #17. We used this in my previously mentioned Zoology class as one of the classic anatomical lessons in the evolutionary chain of life on this planet. Evolutionists have no problem whatsoever with this organism since it once again bolsters the TOE as it represents a stepping-stone on the way to man.

First: They represent the evolutionary link between the Invertebrate and Vertebrate Phyla since they have a primitive (cartilage) backbone.

Second: A further common ancestor went on to become the sharks and rays, which eventually evolved into fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, primates, man.

Since a lamprey didn't need to evolve this means that humans didn't either. That's what I get out of this.

Extremely poor logic [*LOL*]. I suggest, much the same as I took long ago, a Year-long Zoology course to open your mind to the wonders of Evolution.

Hope this helps. Best of luck with your coursework!

26 posted on 10/26/2006 12:33:12 PM PDT by DoctorMichael (A wall first. A wall now.)
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To: Alter Kaker
Lampreys clearly stumbled upon a successful niche, and have had no reason to evolve significantly.

No reason? No reason? So you are implying evolution is intellegently directed.

27 posted on 10/26/2006 12:36:42 PM PDT by aimhigh
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To: aculeus

A 'Living Fossil': 360 Million-year-old Fish Hasn't Evolved Much



And why hasn't it evolved much?...C'mon say it..."Because evolution is a fairy-tale."


28 posted on 10/26/2006 12:38:56 PM PDT by CAPTAINSUPERMARVELMAN
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To: aculeus

Bill Clinton would hit it.


29 posted on 10/26/2006 12:40:52 PM PDT by freedomlover (Sorry, a tagline occurred. The tagline has been logged.)
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To: DoctorMichael

sure looks like an attorney to me.


30 posted on 10/26/2006 12:42:20 PM PDT by OldCorps
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To: aimhigh

No reason = no pressure on it in the form of scarce resources, competition for resources, predators, or environmental changes that influence its development. Meanwhile, mutations that have also found their own niches have evolved into present day forms of sharks, eels, etc.


31 posted on 10/26/2006 12:44:10 PM PDT by SlowBoat407 (A living insult to islam since 1959)
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To: OldCorps
sure looks like an attorney to me.

Hey, don't insult Lampreys!

32 posted on 10/26/2006 12:45:03 PM PDT by celmak
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To: mutley
Hmmm...hasn't changed much in 360,000,000 years. So, why not? Did all the random mutations just never find themselves in a favorable environment to be selected? I don't get it.

Two comments:

First, it's misleading to say that the lampreys "haven't evolved". Some of their descendants have a very similar shape to their remote ancestors, that's all you can say. Those descendants may well have changed in many ways that aren't reflected in their morphology, but morphology is all that the fossil record preserves.

Second, if the shape of the lamprey is sufficiently well suited for its ecological niche, evolution will necessarily act to preserve that shape. Lampreys are born all the time with a slightly different shape, but as that shape is less well suited for the niche, those "hopeful monsters" will be weeded out over time.

It really is simple, and almost obvious, if you think about it.

33 posted on 10/26/2006 12:46:50 PM PDT by Physicist
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To: aimhigh
No reason? No reason? So you are implying evolution is intellegently directed.

No. Absent any environmental factor pushing evolution in any direction, each generation of an organism will have roughly the same allele frequencies as its parent. Obviously there will be some genetic drift over time, but if the organism has a successful niche, then there's no ecological advantage to evolving.

34 posted on 10/26/2006 12:52:26 PM PDT by Alter Kaker ("Whatever tears one sheds, in the end one always blows one's nose." - Heine)
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To: OldCorps

*LOL*


35 posted on 10/26/2006 12:55:40 PM PDT by DoctorMichael (A wall first. A wall now.)
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To: aculeus

"Abundant in the Northeast United States, lampreys have a sucker-like mouth with a ring of cartilage that supports the rim of the mouth. It fastens on to a living fish with its teeth, rasps at the host's soft tissues with its piston-like tongue, produces strands of mucus to trap the food and feeds on the body fluids."

Northeastern US socialists' behavior.


36 posted on 10/26/2006 1:00:27 PM PDT by truth_seeker
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To: Physicist

"First, it's misleading to say that the lampreys "haven't evolved". Some of their descendants have a very similar shape to their remote ancestors, that's all you can say. Those descendants may well have changed in many ways that aren't reflected in their morphology, but morphology is all that the fossil record preserves."

I don't know...that sounds pretty weak. Concerning the many changes you speculated about, what kind of things are you referring to? What else is there to a lamprey? There isn't much left when you take out morphology. Eye color or personality?

And think I stated correctly "hasn't changed much" not "hasn't evolved".

Sincerely.


37 posted on 10/26/2006 1:04:23 PM PDT by mutley ("I read the Koran, and didn't find anything of value in it.")
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To: Physicist

I think a lot of people have trouble discussing this because they're going back along one line - the line from the lamprey we know today versus the fossil record of 360 million years ago. If we start from the fossil record and move forward, it's easier to describe it in terms of one line remaining relatively unchanged over time because it hasn't had much pressure to change, while other descendants have indeed shown some evolutionary influences due to mutations that have proved equally or more successful compared to the original model.


38 posted on 10/26/2006 1:09:59 PM PDT by SlowBoat407 (A living insult to islam since 1959)
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To: Physicist

"Second, if the shape of the lamprey is sufficiently well suited for its ecological niche, evolution will necessarily act to preserve that shape. Lampreys are born all the time with a slightly different shape, but as that shape is less well suited for the niche, those "hopeful monsters" will be weeded out over time."

I sure have a hard time understanding how something could maintain an ecological niche through 360,000,000 years of climate fluctuations, catastrophic events, and extinction events.


39 posted on 10/26/2006 1:11:28 PM PDT by mutley ("I read the Koran, and didn't find anything of value in it.")
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To: mutley
I sure have a hard time understanding how something could maintain an ecological niche through 360,000,000 years of climate fluctuations, catastrophic events, and extinction events.

When all you have to do is suck off of someone else's resources, you don't have to evolve much.

This also explains why liberals are still around.

40 posted on 10/26/2006 1:13:07 PM PDT by SlowBoat407 (A living insult to islam since 1959)
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To: SlowBoat407

"When all you have to do is suck off of someone else's resources, you don't have to evolve much."

Provided that said resources are always accessible by the equipment you have to access them.

"This also explains why liberals are still around."

On this, we are on the same page.


41 posted on 10/26/2006 1:22:50 PM PDT by mutley ("I read the Koran, and didn't find anything of value in it.")
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To: mutley

Gotta run. Thanks for the responses.


42 posted on 10/26/2006 1:24:07 PM PDT by mutley ("I read the Koran, and didn't find anything of value in it.")
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To: aculeus

It's a chordate.


43 posted on 10/26/2006 1:24:13 PM PDT by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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To: mutley
Concerning the many changes you speculated about, what kind of things are you referring to? What else is there to a lamprey?

Only a few of an organisms genes specify its shape. Most of the genes control the detailed composition of proteins. There could have been wholesale changes at the cellular level, but you'd never know it from the fossil record.

That's not wild speculation, either. We observe such low-level divergence occurring in the real world, almost in realtime. Consider the wide variety of bacteria that exist in the world today, all sharing very similar morphologies. If you only knew the shapes, you'd never guess at the extreme variety.

The only really surprising result from this discovery is that an ecological niche has remained so stable for 360,000,000 years.

44 posted on 10/26/2006 1:25:21 PM PDT by Physicist
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To: lepton
It's a chordate.

With the sun going down so early, I thought it was already 8:30.

45 posted on 10/26/2006 1:26:49 PM PDT by SlowBoat407 (A living insult to islam since 1959)
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To: DoctorMichael
We used this in my previously mentioned Zoology class as one of the classic anatomical lessons in the evolutionary chain of life on this planet.

Well wow. If I had known that I wouldn't have made my comments. NOT!!!

46 posted on 10/26/2006 1:34:52 PM PDT by taxesareforever (Never forget Matt Maupin)
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To: Vasilli22

Oh, Lord have mercy! Every time I see that photo, I feel like throwing up. Please, someone---get that woman a burqa!


47 posted on 10/26/2006 1:36:54 PM PDT by FarRightFanatic
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To: SlowBoat407

Ok, I'll warn you now so you can call me names ahead of time - I'm going to post and run, because I can't strand my son at school.

Here's my comment: I've seen in this thread the one common theme I've seen from all evolutionists - no matter what the fossil record shows, it supports evolution.

Think about it. All of these have been proposed on this one thread: 1) If there are changes, that must mean evolution. 2) If there are no changes, that must mean evolution. 3) If this branch didn't change, others must have, so that must mean evolution.

So: None of us were there, and the evidence is approached from a foregone conclusion. My conclusion just happens to be based on God, and whether any will admit it or not, He's better able to do the job than chance.

Flame away, but like I said, I gotta go.


48 posted on 10/26/2006 1:44:40 PM PDT by HeadOn (Pro Deo, Pro Familia, Pro Patria)
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To: Dreagon
Most parasites like lampreys, mosquitos, and liberals remain pretty much unchanged throughout earths history. I'm sure we will soon be digging up some old hippies fossil that proves that any day now.

You mean Gerry Garcia?

49 posted on 10/26/2006 2:02:54 PM PDT by SoldierDad (Proud Father of a 10th Mountain Division 2nd BCT Soldier fighting in Mahmudiyah)
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To: HeadOn
Think about it. All of these have been proposed on this one thread: 1) If there are changes, that must mean evolution. 2) If there are no changes, that must mean evolution. 3) If this branch didn't change, others must have, so that must mean evolution.

You have not accurately portrayed the explanations and responses given on this discussion.
50 posted on 10/26/2006 2:04:08 PM PDT by Dimensio (http://angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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