Focus: creation news and views 39(3)
Lung blood surprise
‘Everyone knows’ that virtually all blood components are made in bone marrow, but that belief appears to be mistaken.
Platelets, also known as thrombocytes (= ‘clot cells’) and found in large numbers in mammalian blood, are vital for blood clotting. They are cell fragments, without a nucleus, derived from megakaryocytes (= ‘large-nucleus cells’), which in turn come from stem cells capable of producing many different types of blood cells.
In experiments involving mice, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco found that their lungs made not just a few of the body’s platelets (as was already known), but perhaps even most. Using new technology, they were able to watch this production directly. A “huge” store of megakaryocytes (which appear to have originated in the marrow)—one million in each mouse lung—was found to be producing platelets at the rate of some 10 million per hour, more than half of the body’s total platelet production. And inside the lung tissue, they also found a “previously unknown pool of blood stem cells that makes this happen”.
All this suggests “a more sophisticated view of the lungs” which indicates lungs are “a key partner in formation of crucial aspects of the blood,” says one of the researchers, Mark Looney. He adds that this finding in mice “strongly suggests the lung may play a key role in blood formation in humans as well”.
The article aptly asks: “So how did we miss such a crucial biological process this whole time?” The history of science is full of instances of the ‘received wisdom’ effect; since ‘everyone knows’ something, it prevents people from looking for (or even accepting, sometimes) the opposite.
- Crew, B., An unexpected new lung function has been found—they make blood, sciencealert.com, March 2017.
Smart Neandertals used aspirin and penicillin?
Based on the studies of DNA remnants in the tartar on the teeth of Neandertals, scientists have concluded that Neandertals used a plant source of aspirin and possibly dosed themselves on penicillin by eating the penicillin mould.
“Their behaviour and their diet looks a lot more sophisticated and a lot more like us in many ways,” said Professor Alan Cooper, the New Zealander who is director of the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.
“You know, we’ve got a guy self-medicating …
“And, here he is eating aspirin [poplar bark] and we’re finding penicillin mould in him.”
- Weyrich, L.S. et al., Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus, Nature, March 2017 | doi:10.1038/nature21674.
- Briggs, H., Neanderthals ‘self-medicated’ for pain, bbc.com, March 2017.
Sun directs ants’ paths
A research team has shown that ants use the sun to navigate. In experiments, researchers mirrored the sun so that it appeared to be in the opposite half of the sky while hiding the direct sun with an opaque board. The team observed that when ants were moving backward and dragging food they would on occasions release it, rotate and walk a few steps forward, return to the food, and drag it backward in a now-corrected direction.
The researchers concluded:
“Our results suggest that ants do not adjust their direction of travel based on the perceived scene while going backward. Instead, they maintain a straight direction using their celestial compass.”
Similar navigational ability has been observed throughout nature, for example in honey bees. See creation.com/bee.
- Schwarz, S. et al., How ants use vision when homing backward, Curr. Biol. 27(3):401–407, February 2017 | doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.019.
More soft tissue in dinosaur bones
North Carolina State University researchers have discovered further evidence of soft tissue in dinosaur bones. Postdoctoral researcher Elena Schroeter and Mary Schweitzer, professor of biological sciences, have confirmed an earlier discovery of dinosaur collagen (a protein) in a duck-billed dinosaur.
This time around, the researchers found eight peptide (part protein) sequences, two of which were identical to what they first discovered in 2009. These peptides allowed the researchers to identify the specific type of collagen. It did not match any living animal, so it is highly likely to be dinosaur collagen, and not due to contamination.
Based on laboratory experiments, at 20°C, bone collagen is expected to decay away, to below the detection limit, in just 15,000 years. So how is it that collagen is still present in these bones if they are 80 million years old? But rather than question the supposed evolutionary age of the bones, the researchers marvelled at how long proteins can last!
Dinosaur soft tissue continues to be a problem for those who hold to the idea of millions of years.
- Schroeter, E.R. et al., Expansion for the collagen I sequence and additional evidence of the preservation of cretaceous protein, J. Proteome Res., January 2017 | doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00873.
- Nielsen-Marsh, C., Biomolecules in fossil remains: Multidisciplinary approach to endurance,
- The Biochemist 24(3):12–14, June 2002.
Underground lake holds ‘oldest’ water
Scientists who have found a lake 3 km (about 2 miles) underground in Canada with water about 10 times the salinity of sea water believe it could provide clues to life deep below the surface of planets such as Mars. There’s no ‘life’ in the water but the researchers say it’s “full of chemical energy for life”. It’s claimed the water is the oldest ever found at 2 billion years. This is based on its location in Precambrian rocks to which secular scientists have assigned a geological ‘age’ range of between 500 and 4,600 million years.
According to one veteran of the oil and gas industry, it is not unusual to find water at depths far exceeding 3 km. He told CMI by email: “I have drilled wells all over the world, offshore and onshore, and found water-bearing strata at depths far exceeding three kilometres—sometimes saline, sometimes fresh.”
In the account of Noah’s Flood we are told that the “fountains of the great deep burst forth” (Genesis 7:11); so the discovery of deep underground residual water all over the world is no surprise.
- Yirka, B., New record for oldest water found in Canada, phys.org, December 2016.
- Grimm, N., Oldest water on Earth found in Canada could provide clues to hidden life on Mars, abc.net.au, December 2016.
Breaking down Lucy controversies
The famous ‘Lucy’ skeleton (Australopithecus afarensis) continues to attract both attention and contention, with the latest controversy concerning bone fractures.
Researchers from the University of Texas who examined CT scans of each of Lucy’s bones concluded that she died from a fall, probably from a tree.
But Donald Johanson, the paleoanthropologist at Arizona State University credited with discovering and naming Lucy, says the ‘fractures’ are from “geological forces acting on the bones” during fossilization.
The most contentious claim about Lucy is that she is an ‘early human’ but many of her bony features suggest she is designed for tree climbing. The supposed evidence of her walking upright is based on the Laetoli tracks found in volcanic ash—but which some evolutionists have pointed out are identical to those of human children (except they ‘can’t be’ because the ‘dates are wrong’.) For more see creation.com/lucy-walk and creation.com/lucy-tracks.
- Hoffman, A., Did a fall from a tree kill Lucy, our famous ancestor?, news.nationalgeographic.com, August 2016.
Crocodile eggs found in dinosaur nests
Crocodile eggs have been found in dinosaur nests in Portugal. Interestingly, in four cases the eggs were found in theropod (e.g. Allosaurus) nests, suggesting some sort of relationship.
Many of the eggs consisted of original eggshell material; the eggshell had not been replaced with other minerals. Of one batch of 13 eggs found, the authors say, “there is no evidence of recrystallization or replacement of the original composition of the eggs”. This would not seem to be consistent with the claimed evolutionary age of 150 million years.
Furthermore, the authors concluded that, “Additionally, we verified and confirmed that the basic crocodiloid eggshell structure has shown a morphological conservatism over a period of 150 Ma”. In other words, the eggs were much the same as modern crocodile eggs.
- Russo, J. et al., Two new ootaxa from the late Jurassic: The oldest record of crocodylomorph eggs, from the Lourinhã Formation, Portugal, PLOS One, March 2017 | doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171919.
- See also creation.com/stasis.
Dinosaur imprint beautifully preserved
One of the largest recorded sauropod dinosaur imprints has been located in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. The fossil imprint is believed to have been made by a Titanosaurus which could have been about 30 m (100 ft) long and 20 m (65 ft) tall. Not only was the huge footprint—106 cm (41 in) long by 77 cm (30 in) wide—left behind, but also impressions of the titanosaur’s claws, a very rare find.
The print is believed to have been made by the titanosaur on soft, muddy ground. Such prints typically don’t last very long; it is believed that it was filled in by flowing sand which preserved it.
Fossil footprints such as this one can best be explained as having occurred at the time of the global Flood (Genesis 6–8). Cycles of rapid sedimentation were followed by temporary brief drops in local sea level. These allowed swimming animals that had not yet succumbed to the Flood to leave footprints on the fresh sediment, before another layer was quickly deposited, filling and covering the imprint with further sediment. Without such rapid burial, the foot and claw impressions of this magnificent animal would not have been preserved.
In some locations one can see the pattern from such cyclic sedimentation; repeating layers containing dino footprints are separated from the one above or below it by several intervening ones supposedly representing ‘millions of years’. But what is the probability of such a ‘repeat event’ occurring millions of years later in the same spot just once, let alone over several successive periods of vast ages—especially when it involves, as it often does, the very same species of dinosaur?
- Dinosaur footprint found in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert among world’s largest, researchers say, abc.net.au, October 2016.
- Palazzo, C., Dinosaur footprint among largest on record discovered in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, telegraph.co.uk, October 2016.
- See also Michael Oard’s classic book Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries.
Limit to living much beyond 100
Recently, the last survivor from the 19th century died aged 117 years and 137 days: Emma Morano (29 November 1899 – 15 April 2017) from Italy. If you live to be 70, there’s a chance you’ll reach 100, but there seems to be a limit to our lifespan not much beyond that, based on various data from 1900 onward that showed longevity increased with year of birth. But, as a researcher pointed out: “The data shows that we’re not very successful at keeping people alive over the age 100, and that suggests that there may be a hard limit to human lifespan.”
Death at any age is of course related to the Curse on a once-perfect world, but the Bible also describes very long lifespans before the Flood. Today’s lifespans have been increasing for centuries, with better nutrition and sanitation, and medical advances, but this suggests that they are approaching a built-in limit.
Evidence has long suggested that limits on lifespan are strongly influenced by genetic factors, and two factors are relevant to pre-Flood ages. First, they were living closer to the time of original perfection, so harmful mutations had not been accumulating for as long (see creation.com/age-entropy). Second, the drastic bottleneck at the Flood had to have meant the loss of some genes in the population, which could well have included some related to longevity (see creation.com/long-lived).
- Welch, A., Have we reached the natural limit to the human lifespan? cbsnews.com, October 2016.
- Vijg, J. et al., Evidence for a limit to human lifespan, Nature 538(7623):257–259, October 2016 | doi:10.1038/nature19793.
Just the facts, please
The Bible, starting in Genesis, gives a true history of the world, so we can reasonably question, for example, when scientists and governments claim that evolution is fact. Biblical creationists, and perhaps even more so climate change skeptics, are part of the focus of a team of psychology researchers who are “working to understand the cognitive processes, ideologies, cultural demands, and conspiracy beliefs that cause smart people to resist scientific messages”.
One of the researchers said: “We find that people treat facts as relevant more when the facts tend to support their opinions. When the facts are against their opinions, they don’t necessarily deny the facts, but they say the facts are less relevant.” But those statements could equally be applied to evolutionists and climate change proponents.
The researchers, it seems, are more focused on ‘massaging the message’. One said: “Rather than taking on people’s surface attitudes directly, tailor the message so that it aligns with their motivation. So with climate skeptics, for example, you find out what they can agree on and then frame climate messages to align with these.”
- Facts, beliefs, and identity: The seeds of science skepticism, phys.org, January 2017.
Museum fossil discovery prompts call to scrutinize storage vaults for other ‘gems’
An international team of researchers has recently discovered a previously unknown species of giant bristle worm among the fossil specimens stored at the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada.
Now assigned the species name Websteroprion armstrongi, the fossil had been collected in a helicopter expedition to a remote location in Ontario in 1994, but then languished in storage. That is, until it caught the eye of several researchers working with Ontario Museum staff.
A museum official said:
“This is an excellent example of the importance of looking in remote and unexplored areas for finding new exciting things, but also the importance of scrutinizing museum collections for overlooked gems.” (Emphasis added.)
Indeed, creationists would wish that evolutionists find the many ‘overlooked gems’ in fossil collections that are readily identifiable, but which are almost never put on display for the general public to see. For example, the fossils of hundreds of species of mammals and birds found in the same rock layers as dinosaurs. And the myriad fossils of modern animals and plants found in rocks where they should not be, according to the evolutionary view. (See creation.com/werner-living-fossils and creation.com/modern-birds-with-dinosaurs.)
But then, displaying them would unravel the evolutionary storyline in the public’s eyes; it would take a brave museum curator to allow that.
- 400-million-year-old gigantic extinct monster worm discovered in Canadian museum, University of Bristol News, bristol.ac.uk, February 2017.
- Earth’s oldest ‘Bobbit worm’—gigantism in a Devonian eunicidan polychaete, Scientific Reports 7:43061, 2017 | doi:10.1038/srep43061.
Mammoth find below the waves
For several decades, beam trawlers in the North Sea have brought up animal bones when fishing for flatfish by dragging nets along the seabed. For more than 100 years fishermen have also netted tonnes of mammoth remains, mostly skulls, bones, tusks, hooves and teeth.
A group of fossil hunters collected enough bones to reconstruct a mammoth. One of them said: “In the Ice Age, lots of water from the sea became great ice sheets and the land between the Netherlands and the UK was joined up, so megafauna could just walk around.”
The area in which the bones were found is said to have once been a huge, mostly treeless, dry steppe.
- An exceptional mammoth discovery from the North Sea, depositsmag.com, March 2017.
- Essex Standard, 8 December 1876, p.5.
- Griffiths, S., Mammoth skeleton hauled from the North Sea’s depths, dailymail.co.uk, December 2014.
Fossil find a triple treat
Another amazing fossil ‘frozen in time’ with an undigested meal has been found in Germany. Dubbed the ‘nesting doll’ fossil, it’s a juvenile snake (Palaeopython fischeri) with its meal of a lizard (Geiseltaliellus maarius), which in turn had consumed an as yet unidentified insect. A paleontologist who studied the fossil spoke of “pure astonishment” at the discovery. Another researcher said: “This fossil is amazing. We were lucky men to study this kind of specimen.”
In speculating on how the remarkably preserved fossil formed, the report claimed that 48 million years ago, the area was “a volcanic lake with toxic waters and sporadic asphyxiating clouds of carbon dioxide”. But such theories do not explain the fact that all three creatures are readily identifiable, so the preservation had to happen before the two prey species could be digested. This strongly indicates sudden burial, which would also protect from scavengers and decay.
It’s not the first such find of ‘three-in-one’ fossils. In 2008, researchers revealed a shark with an amphibian in its digestive tract that contained fish remains.
Such fossils and countless others are better explained by a catastrophic event such as Noah’s Flood.
- Smith, K. T. and Scanferla A., Fossil snake preserving three trophic levels and evidence for an ontogenetic dietary shift, Palaeobio Palaeoenv 96(4): 589–599, 2016.
- Kriwet, J. et al., First direct evidence of a vertebrate three-level trophic chain in the fossil record, PNAS B 275(1631):181–186, 2008.
Adzes traded across the oceans
Geochemical tests on various stone artefacts from an archaeological site in the Cook Islands seem to confirm theories that about nine centuries ago Polynesians were regularly sailing thousands of kilometres around what is now known as Oceania.
There seem to have been deliberate journeys of colonization with repeated subsequent contact.
Culturally and economically important artefacts, such as stone adzes (illustrated) were traded with various islands, including those in the Samoa and Marquesas archipelagos up to 2,400 km (1,500 miles) away, indicating an “integrated society” despite the great separation.
All of this, particularly the high levels of seafaring and navigation skill required, well fits the biblical model of the post-Flood spread of intelligent people across the globe after the Tower of Babel dispersion.
- Sailors leave ancient ‘fingerprints’ across Polynesia, uq.edu.au, July 2016.
- Weisler, M.I. et al., Cook Island artifact geochemistry demonstrates spatial and temporal extent of pre-European interarchipelago voyaging in East Polynesia, PNAS 113(2):8150–8155, July 2016 | doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608130113.