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No. 28: Jul-Aug 1983

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Land animals: earlier and earlier

Two biologists looking for plant fossils in the Catskills found instead the remains of ancient centipedes, mites, and spider-like creatures -- a classical case of serendipity. These animals were in a Devonian formation dated at 380 million years. It turned out that they were the oldest fossils ever found of purely land animals. (Some fossil animals of about the same age are known in European rocks, but in semiaquatic environments.) Two aspects of the fossils are of special interest:

  1. The animals found were already well-adapted to terrestrial life, inferring that the (assumed) invasion of the land from the sea has to be pushed back much farther in time; and
  2. Many of the fossil animals are essentially identical to modern forms, suggesting that little if any evolution has occurred in 380 million years.

(Anonymous; "Fossils found in N.Y. Alter Scientists' View," Baltimore Sun, May 29, 1983.

Comment. Note the sudden jump from no land animals to well-developed, frozen-in-time land animals.

From Science Frontiers #28, JUL-AUG 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987