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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