Video time capsule

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I first ran across the thylacine (aka “Tasmanian tiger” or “Tasmanian wolf”) when I was preparing to teach a summer course on vertebrate zoology for a local Catholic college during grad school. While I’d had a decent amount of organismal biology and zoology as a college undergrad, I was a bit rusty from a few years of only studying organisms lacking nuclei, so I was looking for a quick refresher as well as some interesting topics for final paper assignments for the course. Just announced around that time was a “breakthrough” in the attempt to clone the thylacine, so I introduced that to the class in a discussion of the effects of geographic isolation, and had a nice discussion of both the molecular techniques and the ethics of a Jurassic Park-type scenario.

(Continue reading at Aetiology)

39 Comments

Idiot time capsule

Of Pandas and People by Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon Charles B. Thaxton, Associate Editor C 1989 Foundation for Thought and Ethics Haughton Publishing Company, Dallas, TX

pp. 28-29

Marsupials and placental mammals are sometimes strikingly similar (see Figure 7). For instance, in skeletal structure, the North American wolf and the now-extinct Tasmanian wolf are nearly indistinguishable. If found as fossils, they would surely be counted as members of the same species.

Oh man, you gotta be kidding me. Thank the FSM for NCSE’s smackdown.

Even just looking at them without more info on tooth structure, they look different:

Tasmanian wolf

Siberian wolf

Not sure what species this is, from this page,

wolf skull.

Another thing I tried to get the students to understand–convergent evolution.

For instance, in skeletal structure, the North American wolf and the now-extinct Tasmanian wolf are nearly indistinguishable.

I seriously never realised this was about the Thylacine, and I have to say this textbook must be even worse and more deliberately dishonest than I had thought. Somehow. Crikey.

-Schmitt.

As pointed out in the comments at Aetiology, the Thylacine museum site has an amazing amount of information on the animal. Including–diagrams of the skull, complete with “magnifying glass.” Keep hitting the “next” button at the bottom to get to the side-by-side comparison between it and a wolf skull.

Whats up with the wierd script on the images page which gives you a popup if you try to right click on the images, telling you that it is “illegal” to save the images?

I sure hope they didn’t spend too much money on “Image Protect Enterprise Edition”, since all you have to do is hit the “print screen” key to capture the images.

One question, related to the wriggle room the OPAP writers might claim…

Is there anything in a marsupials bone structure that would help identify it as one (given you knew nothing of the source of the bones/fossil)?

Is there anything in a marsupials bone structure that would help identify it as one (given you knew nothing of the source of the bones/fossil)?

That’s a good question, and one I’m totally unqualified to answer. :D Google gave me this page, which says:

Several other features distinguish marsupials from other mammals. For example, the marsupial brain is smaller than the brain of placental mammals of similar size. In addition, marsupial brains lack a corpus callosum, a brain structure found in placental mammals that permits nerve communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Marsupials have between 40 and 50 teeth; humans, in comparison, have only 32 teeth and elephants a mere 6, including their two tusks. Also different from other mammals are the marsupium bones, present in both male and female marsupials. Not found in other mammals, these bones project from the pelvic bones and may serve to strengthen the wall of the abdomen.

I’d guess that those marsupium bones would be the “money” feature to look for, but I’m sure skilled scientists could tell even lacking those. Not sure if the larger number of teeth is just a general guideline or something that is definitive.

That Pandas made the marsupial “wolf” and the wolf are the same is more evidence that Pandas was taken its cues from creationist sources. Most readers here know that this is because it is a creationist book.

That the marsupial “wolf” is and the wolf are not merely superficially similar but are essentially the same thing is a common YEC claim. Many YECs claim that the wolf that underwent “microevolution” and became a marsupial “wolf.” Some YECs claim the wolves and other placental mammals underwent similar stresses in Australia and became marsupials. See: Marsupial Evolution and Post Flood Migration: A Creation Theory into the Origin of Marsupials and Post-Flood Marsupial Migration Explained. Others, for example Creation Explanation 7a simply say the marsupial equivalents are disproof of evolution.

A good article showing in detail why this is false that is understandable those of us not formally trained in anatomy would certainly be a valuable contribution for T.O.

Thanks, Tara. So basically anything more than a cursory look at an animal’s bones should be enough to tell if it’s a marsupial or not.

So I guess the OPAP authors were either incompetent or dishonest when they wrote the statement in question.

Not sure which is worse.

At least incompetence can be forgiven…

thylacines are the most amazing convergence ever - possums evolving into dogs. I can’t think of a worse loss of information than that of the (manmade of course) thylacine extinction. very sobering.

I seriously never realised this was about the Thylacine, and I have to say this textbook must be even worse and more deliberately dishonest than I had thought. Somehow. Crikey.

I think the entirety of Chapter 6, on sequence comparisons, is even worse.

BTW, both of these errors can be traced to Michael Denton’s book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis Adler & Adler C 1986

snaxalotl Wrote:

thylacines are the most amazing convergence ever - possums evolving into dogs. I can’t think of a worse loss of information than that of the (manmade of course) thylacine extinction. very sobering.

Don’t forget, according to some Creationists, even the evolution of a possum into a dog must have happened solely through the loss of information, since evolution cannot produce new information. They lost the information necessary to be a possum and to not be a dog.

It does sorta look like a kangaroo with sharp teeth that forgot to exercise its hind legs.

Tara, thanks for changing the theme of Aetiology. The pink text on pink background caused my eyes to consistently try to leap out of my skull and race under the desk everytime I accessed the site. Consequently, my attention span was significantly shorter on the site than others. After the change of theme, Aetiology is a much easier read and a whole lot easier on the eyes. I’ve been able to catch up on my reading. Thanks.

Don’t forget, according to some Creationists, even the evolution of a possum into a dog must have happened solely through the loss of information, since evolution cannot produce new information. They lost the information necessary to be a possum and to not be a dog.

In other words, they lost the pouch. And everyone can see that a possum without a pouch might as well be called a dog.

I seem to recall, in fact, that in the ancient Hebrew, the word “poshum” meant “dog with wallet”. And am I remembering correctly that a scholar found several references in the Rezhitic Scrolls to the “opo oposshu poshum moshupummons opo shumu” or the “day that dogs without wallets sprung from dry sand.”

And of course the only significant difference between cats and dogs is cats lost the information needed to lift one leg and pee on trees.

This and oh so much more I have learned from creationists.

Seriously, though, the most pathetic thing about creationists and ID peddlers is their shocking lack of imagination. I mean, if you’re going to simply make shxt up, then make it entertaining at least.

Is it just me or does that picture of the Tasmanian wolf really, really freak out other people too?

There’s also a characteristic structure of the marsupial jawbone, called the “marsupial shelf”. There’s a photo of this feature here:

http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/pa[…]supials.html

Miguelito Wrote:

Is it just me or does that picture of the Tasmanian wolf really, really freak out other people too?

Enough that I remember my first impression from seeing the film clips: It looked normal enough until it opened it’s mouth. Then it just looked strange: The lower jaw seems far too big for hits head and opens much too wide. It has way too many teeth too. I always thought it looked like a cross between a wolf and a coatimundi, especially the head.

Mike Walker Wrote:

Thanks, Tara. So basically anything more than a cursory look at an animal’s bones should be enough to tell if it’s a marsupial or not.

But is important to note that those who are not experienced with anatomy will not find it so obvious. When I look at the skulls I see many obvious differences but I also see quite a bit that is quite similar. Unless I go out and research the topic I not able to say, on my own, whether the similarities or differences are more relevant. Right now I have to trust those who know comparative anatomy that the similarity is superficial. I think I have an obvious solution: looking at skulls that are neither the wolf or its so-called marsupial “equivalent.” My experience with creationist sources suggests that if I did so I would see that they were completely wrong. Of course my point should be that merely putting two images in this case really is not enough unless one already understands the context. The context in this case is knowing something about skulls.

So I guess the OPAP authors were either incompetent or dishonest when they wrote the statement in question.

And it would be good evidence that Pandas has bad biology even though it is being sold as a supplemental biology textbook.

Not sure which is worse.

In one important sense it really does not matter: the result is the same. But I would think that if it is outright dishonesty that would be worse since there nothing wrong with merely being wrong. And as Bob Park would point out what starts as foolishness can eventually turn into fraud when the person is unwilling to admit that he was simply wrong.

But I would think that if it is outright dishonesty that would be worse since there nothing wrong with merely being wrong.

I suspect wilful incompetence rather than just being wrong. I’ve found that most creationists I’ve met only know as much as they need to be wrong.

Mike Walker Wrote:

I suspect wilful incompetence rather than just being wrong. I’ve found that most creationists I’ve met only know as much as they need to be wrong.

You are probably right here. Ignorance and incompetence is rather rampant in creationist circles. In the end dishonesty vs. incompetence can be a false dichotomy though. Do we want to call lying to oneself dishonesty? And as I pointed out what starts as mere foolishness often “evolves” to dishonesty.

So I guess the OPAP authors were either incompetent or dishonest when they wrote the statement in question.

Not sure which is worse.

We’ll have a chance to find out when the next version, to be titled The Design of Life and edited by Bill Dembski comes out, and we can see whether any of these agregious errors, which have been pointed out by many, are actually corrected.

Tara Smith wrote:

I’d guess that those marsupium bones would be the “money” feature to look for, but I’m sure skilled scientists could tell even lacking those. Not sure if the larger number of teeth is just a general guideline or something that is definitive.

Does anyone know if any molecular phylogenies are planned for this animal in the future? I suspect, along with evolutionists, that the Thylacine would group with other animals on its continent of origin, just like mammals in general do. But most other creationists would predict the T. wolves to cluster with placental ones, or at least form a long branch with respect to marsupials. A gene tree could test these competing hypotheses.

for Mike Walker - what you are looking for and a nice story ( and more problems for the IDiots..)

This from Richard Dawkins’ the Ancestor’s tale (recommended reading):

Thylacinus the Tasmanian Wolf, is one of the most famous examples of convergent evolution. Thylacines are sometimes called Tasmanian Tigers because of their striped backs, but it is an unfortunate name. They are much more like wolves or dogs. They were once common all over Australia and New Guinea, and they survived in Tasmania until living memory. There was a bounty on their scalps until 1909, the last authenticated specimen sighted in the wild was shot in 1930, and the last captive Thylacine died in Hobart Zoo in 1936. Most museums have a stuffed specimen. They are easy to tell from a true dog because of the stripes on the back but the skeleton is harder to distinguish. Zoolology students of my generation at Oxford had to identify 100 zoological specimensas part of the final exam. Word soon got around that, if ever a ‘dog’ skull was given, it was safe to identify it as Thylacinus on the grounds that anything as obvious as a dog skull had to be a catch. Then one year the examiners, to their credit, double bluffed and put in a real dog skull. In case you are interested, the easiest way to tell the difference is by the two prominant holes in the palate bone, which are characteristic of marsupials generally. Dingos of course, are not marsupials but real dogs, probably introduced by aboriginal man. It may have partly been competition from dingos that drove the thylacines extincton mainland Australia. Dingos never reached Tasmania, which may be why thylacines survived there until European settles drove them extinct. But fossils show there were other species of thylacine in Australia that went extinct too early for humans or dingos to bear the blame.” On a side point my sister lives in Tasmania - I did a week long solo trek along the South Coast - you can’t help just wishing you could see one - now that would be something to post in the Panda’s Thumb.…

As the posts above explain, the Thylacine has been extinct on the Australian mainland for 3000 to 4000 years, whilst a remnant population survived on Tasmania until the 1930’s. However there are still people who claim to have seen ‘Thylacine-like’ creatures, even on the mainland. Have a look at http://wasg.iinet.net.au/ntday.html as an example. The father of an ex-girlfriend once looked me in the eye and swore that he had seen a group of Thylacines one night on a lonely forest road in Western Australian.

Does the Thylacine still exist? They have only been extinct since the 1930’s so I suppose it could be possible some populations survived in Tasmania. The forested west coast of Tasmania is extremely rugged and basically uninhabited. People suggest populations of Thylacines may have survived there. A Tasmanian colleague of mine says that people have started to discount this hypothesis because the Thylacines should have been growing in number due to a lack of any population pressures. They should have begun expanding into surrounding areas of human habitation. This hasn’t happened.

What about the rest of Australia? Most of the Australian mainland is pretty flat without much really rugged remote terrain in which populations of large vertebrates can hide. Although odd things have turned up (http://www.wollemipine.com/). An article titled ‘Reports of alleged thylacine sightings in Western Australia’ appeared in the journal Conservation Science Western Australia 5(1) p. 1-5 2004. You can get a PDF of the article here http://science.calm.wa.gov.au/cswaj[…]/5-1/1-5.pdf. The author concludes that “Whilst over 200 sightings have been documented and it has been proven that Thylacines have lived in Western Australia in the past, conclusive proof that Thylacines live in Western Australia now is yet to be produced.”

It is nice when a species previously thought to be extinct turns up some where. I personally WANT the Thylacine to be alive, however I am not optimistic since the evidence for this looks slim. However here is where I think this situation becomes like the ID debate (okay, the similarity is tenuous but bare with me). People WANT the Thylacine to be alive. People crave some mystery and excitement. People are uncritical. They see a shadow in the bush, a feral dog seen out of the corner of their eye, they imagine they see stripes on its back and come home telling stories of Thylacines. Like my ex-girlfriend’s father they are certain they have seen a Thylacine. Scientific research is conducted, researchers have spent a lot of time looking for evidence of Thylacines but haven’t found anything. People don’t want to hear that though. There is talk of conspiracy - the government knows about Thylacines but is keeping it secret to protect them. I doubt this. The government could easily keep the population secret, like they have done with the Wollemi pine, but ask for monetary donations to save the species. I think money would pour in; the Auction of Wollemi Pine seedlings netted over $1 million, I think. No, I put my ‘faith’ in proven methods of science, sadly the Thylacine just doesn’t seem to be out there. I trust science to resurrect the species from preserved museum specimens, although I am not holding my breath for that to happen either.

It is nice when a species previously thought to be extinct turns up some where. I personally WANT the Thylacine to be alive, however I am not optimistic since the evidence for this looks slim.

That’s being generous. I’ll be anyone here $100 the thylacine is as extinct as the ivory billed woodpecker, dodo, great auk, and elephant bird.

I’ll take you up on the ivory billed woodpecker http://www.npr.org/templates/story/[…]ryId=4622633

That’s the most startled-looking animal I’ve ever seen.

Registered User Wrote:

That’s being generous. I’ll be anyone here $100 the thylacine is as extinct as the ivory billed woodpecker…

k.e. Wrote:

I’ll take you up on the ivory billed woodpecker

Me, too. It caused a minor local stir for a couple of weeks… some media, some activism, some scientists. Gave a few more people reason to go out to the conservation area and birdwatch. Like most science stories, it fell off the radar fairly quickly. Same sort of response when the eagles were sighted.

I mean VERY slim. I’ll bet you $100 its still alive though. At the risk of using an IDiot tactic - its going to be hard to proove its definitely absoultely 100 % extinct, perhaps there is one still hiding out there…

Ah crud, the Post button and Check Spelling button at TOO close together!

Nic Perfect analogy.

Imperfect management of an island of religion ecology - they killed all vestiges of a natural belief in God that it finally became extinct. The godless island of religion offers a reward for one of their fearless followers to find god. All attempts fail, however they never lose the firm belief that one day no matter what they will find it under a rock or behind a tree.

In the meantime they pray to a scratchy black and white film of the last recorded image of their god trapped in a zoo before it died and was turned into a stuffed museum exhibit. Using science they intend to reverse clone god. And have the law changed so that their god is the one true god. The followers would not be noticed by the rest of the world if it were not for the total weirdness of their god.

. .

The Bulletin is a magazine in Australia that announced it would offer a 1.25-million-dollar (Australian) reward for the capture of a live and uninjured animal. People had 3 months to find one.…no one claimed the prize.

… don’t tell the IDiots this, but one of the hypotheses as to why the thylacine died out is that it caught canine distemper from dogs… funny that an overgrown opposum would be susceptible just because it looks like a dog?

( actually Tasmanian Devils, seals lions and no doubt other other mammals can get distemper too, so maybe not a problem after all - take note quoteminers..).

And humans can get ‘flu from birds

I was talking about Thylacine on the Dembski finds the Transcript thread a few days ago.

Posted by Miguelito on November 17, 2005 05:56 PM (e) (s)

Is it just me or does that picture of the Tasmanian wolf really, really freak out other people too?

Me too, Reminds me of a Rhodesian ridge-back but with the lower jaw of something like a Stork or pelican. Weird.

re: distemper from over at aetiology:

do other marsupials get distemper?

is there a cladistic analysis of susceptibility to distemper? Any indication of whether the common ancestor to dogs and thylacines was susceptible?

Given those answers, and the fact that the introduced dogs were not marsupials does this quote still make sense?

“…an outbreak thought to be distemper (likely brought by introduced dogs) occurred in wild thylacines in 1910.” kudra | 11.18.05 - 4:49 pm | #

Gravatar I think Tasmanian Devils get distemper, and this affected the population when it first came to Tasmania (as do seals, lions etc). (I’ve also pointed out the danger that IDer’s could poiint out that it’s strange an opposum should get a dog disease just cause it looks like a dog). I wander if there is a connection with carnivory? Dean Morrison | 11.18.05 - 7:31 pm | #

Gravatar I think distemper is a disease of canivores in general, not necessarily dogs or cats, despite the names canine or feline distemper. I know for instance minks, ferrets, racoons, *weasels, martins, fishers, otters, badgers, skunks and wolverines are all susceptable. Polar bears too.

* Funny Simpson’s line = Homer: “Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals … except the weasel.” Dave S. | 11.19.05 - 9:19 am | #

Gravatar Note to above…although the canine distemper antibody was found in polar bears, I’m not sure the actual disease is manifested. Have to check on that. Dave S. | 11.19.05 - 9:23 am | #

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on November 17, 2005 11:02 AM.

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