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An artist's rendition of Haplocheirus sollers  (Source: Portia Sloan)

The skull of the beast shows similarities to its cousins, the ancestors of modern birds. However, the creature's lacks some of the bird-like features of later members of the family, showing that the features likely evolved in parallel in both birds and the related dinosaur group.  (Source: NSF.gov)
Newly discovered dinosaur shows that in evolution lightning can and does strike twice

A newly discovered dinosaur in the Alvarezsauridae group has revealed that bird-like features likely evolved twice, both in dinosaurs and in the ancestors to modern birds.  Previously, the group was thought to be ancestors of modern birds, rather than evolutionary cousins. 

Describes Jonah Choiniere from George Washington University in an interview with BBC News,  "Haplocheirus is a transitional fossil.  Previously we thought the Alvarezsauridae were primitive, flightless birds. This discovery shows they're not and that the similarities between them evolved in parallel."

Like birds, the group of dinosaurs has fused wrists and loosely assembled skull bones, leading many paleontologists to believe that they might be the ancestors of birds.  The beasts may also have had feathers, according to analysis in the late 90s and onward.

However, anatomical analysis of a 3-meter long nearly complete skeleton of a new species in the group indicates that the group likely diverged from the line of dinosaurs that evolved into birds, and that the bird-like features emerged in parallel, not in series.  The new skeleton was dubbed Haplocheirus sollers and was found in the China's Gobi desert.  The skeleton was noticed by a member of a team excavating in the orange mudstone beds in the Junggar Basin of the Xinjiang province.  The member saw the pelvis of the dinosaur sticking out of the ground -- and the rest of the skeleton was found soon after.

Professor Choiniere describes, the results of the subsequent analysis, stating, "The rest of the members of this group have really short forelimbs with huge muscle attachments, like body-builder arms. The fossil shows the first step in the evolution of this weird arm and claw."

The new dinosaur is thought to have lived 160 million years ago, making it the oldest member of the family found to date.  Birds and Alvarezsauridae likely split not long before the evolution of the new find, say researchers.  Both group s likely are descended from the bird-footed dinosaurs of the early Jurassic, which include such famous members as the T. Rex and Velociraptor.

The new find likely was primarily an insectivore (as evidenced by its small teeth).  Its small claws were quite agile and would have been ideal for digging, leading researchers to speculate it likely ate termites, which were plentiful in its era and locale.  However, that likely didn't stop the versatile reptile from trying different cuisine. Describes Professor Choiniere, "It may have had a very general diet, tackling smaller animals like lizards, very small mammals and very small crocodile relatives.  It was a lightly built animal and could run very quickly."

The new work was reported in the journal Science.

The truly fascinating thing about this find is that it fuels the theory that in evolution lightning can, and likely will strike twice -- similar designs can evolve in parallel out of a common need.  Thus much of the anatomy in science fiction -- such as teeth on the titular Alien or giant wings and feathers of the flying monsters of Avatar -- may be realistic.  If life is found on other planets similar to Earth, it may show striking similarities as our own planet's fossil record indicates.



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By Keeir on 2/1/2010 7:04:39 PM , Rating: 3
The significant problem with Intelligent Design, Mitch

It all comes down to Faith.

The function of evolution does not require there to be Designer, nor does the function of evolution preclude the possibility of a designer.

Intelligent Design requires you to take it on faith that a Designer made the changes. There can never be proof of this occuring (unless he happened to write a very specific tag line or some such. Maybe in the future we will indeed find a series a genes that serve no other function besides as a signature).

Your examples in the above post may seem great to you, but they in reality say nothing.

Its pretty funny that its suggeted that simply sharing somehwere between 95-98% rather than 98% of the same genes should be considered an arguement against Darwinism.

The existence of genes that currently provide no benifit, or even negative, does not contradict evolution Theory at all, it simply shows that evolution is continuing or the gene itself is not properly understood.

A good example of improper understanding is the common Bee type insect. Vast number of worker bees apparently support a single reproducing queen and a small number of reproducing males. Why would evolution cause such a difference? Surely this is a mistake!?! I mean, a single reproducing female has apparently forced dozens of non-reproducing workers to feed it and take care of it... for no direct gain. Yet it turns out that due to the genetic composition of bee type insects, its in the worker bee's genes' best interest to create -more- worker bees. This is the closest match in terms of genetics to the current worker bee. When colonys of Bee type inspects are tested, the most populous type of bee is almost always the female worker bee. Even when the situation exists that larger numbers of reproductive queens/males could be supported, the tendency of the bee type insect is to maximize the worker population... sense it made. No Faith is needed that for some reason a Design (or Wizard) decide to "Do it that Way".


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