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Flying dinosaurs and a ‘mother lode’ of fossils

20 February 2014

Robert Farrar sent the two links below – just the sort of material In the News requires. Members are asked not to be so skimpy with the links and the stories.

At www.livescience.com/43270-new-burgess-shale-fossils-canada.html … how do the mainstream get out of this one – I really don't know. The new vein of the Burgess Shale has been found in the Kootenay National Park. Geologically it is part of the Burgess Shale – which outcrops in several places. One of them was noticed on a cliff face – so not easy to spot. The main Burgess Shale deposit was found in the Yoho National Park and represents what is famously known as the 'Cambrian Explosion'. In gradualism this represents proof that life had recently sprouted into being. Evidence of life is rare in earlier rocks. In neo-catastrophism it represents the first mass extinction event recorded in the rocks of the Earth – and life must have existed for a long time prior to the Cambrian Explosion. Gradualism has a very clever way of getting round this knot – by tieing up the strands of evidence. What they have done is date each Burgess Shale deposit at a slightly different time, the odd million of years separating them – nothing much in an event that is dated as long ago as half a billion years. How they can date different strata and that old that precisely is itself a mystery – but that is what it is all about, smoke and mirrors. The Burgess Shale deposits are probably contemporary, and not only that, contemporary with caches of similar fossils in China.

The Burgess Shale was laid down in mud and clays and is remarkable as it preserves the soft parts. Some 200 animal species have been identified so far. Now, the new site appears to rival the first in the incidence of fossil diversity and preservation. It will keep palaeontologists busy for years. In just two weeks over 3000 fossils have been collected – from 55 different species. Some of them are animals previously unknown. Some of them are species also found in China's Chengjiang fossil beds. Scientists say the Burgess Shale fossils were swept down in a freak storm by a river or stream in flood and buried in deep water muds – which is one way of describing something that was so extensive it is found both sides of the Pacific.

At http://dornsife.usc.edu/news/stories/1622/when-dinosaurs-flew/ … which is all about flying dinosaurs and similarities they have with birds – and the dissimilarities too.

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