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Old 10-11-2010, 05:51 AM   #1
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Default Evolution & "Missing Links?"

I saw this program on "Natgeo"some time ago.I can't find a reference URL;so I decided not to post.However,maybe someone has more info?In the museum of Natural History in UK[I Believe],there are specimens of 'missing links' for Whales;Dinosaurs;Birds.Some Scientists were observing them recently,and discovered that the 'missing link'specimens were composed of 6-12 bones of unrelated specimens?This is all I can remember.Anyone have further info?
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Old 10-14-2010, 10:15 AM   #2
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Well, most extant species have ancestors which can be traced back in time with differeng levels of detail. For example, we can trace the phenotype of modern humans back about 5 million years to the point where we had a common ancestor ("concestor" in Richard Dawkins' term) with our nearest genetic relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos. These now-extinct species include austalopithecines, various versions of the genus Homo (with the last now-extinct species being H. neanderthalensis) and finally, us.

(As an intersting aside, there does not appear to be any "missing links" between our "concestor" and modern chimpanzees/bonobos, which leads both paleo-anthropologists and paleo-geneticists to believe that our common ancestor looked more like modern chimpanzees than humans.)

As far as "missing link" specimens comprising mis-matched bones, I believe that such is usually not the case. While it's true that sometimes paleontologists error in "building" a species out of limited resources (three or four bones), in most cases such errors are found out within a few years when another paleontologist (or maybe the same one) finds additional fossils that show that the first one was "put together" in error.

In most cases, though, there are so many different transitional species that the errors are found out rather quickly. We can be almost certain that saurischian (not ornithischian) dinosaurs evolved into birds, that ambulocetus is the ancestor of modern whales and dolphins, and that Australopithecus afarensis is either the (or one of the) ancestors of modern humans.

In the past four or five years, fossils found in China have given us tremendous insights into the development of avians from saurischian dinosaurs; recent work done in the shallow North African sea which is now the Sahara has provided us similar evidence for the evolution of cetaceans, and, of course, ongoing research in Olduvai Gorge as well as the recent work in the Klasies River mouth in South Africa has given us a pretty clear picture of the evolution of modern humans.
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