New Archaeopteryx fossil provides further insight into bird, dinosaur evolution

| 75 Comments

One thing I love about this place is how random interesting tangents will spring up in the comments. I wrote a brief post awhile back about some funny/sad AiG cartoons, which morphed into a discussion of snake evolution in the comments section. Dr. Fry’s comments in that discussion led to 2 follow-up posts on his work on the evolution of snake venom, and in the second thread, here, Steviepinhead has mentioned a new Archaeopteryx finding with better-preserved feet:

Steviepinhead Wrote:

…A new Archaeopteryx fossil with exquisitely-preserved feet has been found. In previous finds, the feet were fairly scrunched up. Because there were enough other bird-like features, the less faithfully-preserved feet were assumed to be bird-like as well, with a rear-pointing toe.

It turns out that that toe actually points forward, and is set off to one side, strongly resembling the arrangement of toes of Velociraptor and similar dinosaurs.

Thus, Archaeopteryx turns out to be even more of a mosaic of bird and dino features than previously thought. You might even call it a transitional fossil.

Early-bird fossil features dinosaur feet

When it comes to feet, the earliest-known bird species had more in common with Velociraptors than cardinals.

Modern bird feet have a hind toe that points backward and helps the birds perch on branches, power lines, and pirates’ shoulders. And until a recent discovery of an extremely well-preserved skeleton of the earliest-known bird species, Archaeopteryx, scientists believed it too had a “perching toe.”

The new fossil, known as the “Thermopolis specimen,” is incredibly well-preserved. It left clear impressions of its wing and tail feathers in the limestone it was encased in, and the skull is the best-preserved of all the 10 specimens ever discovered. But it may be the feet that prove to be the most important aspect of the find.

Other links: Science summary Science research article

There was some initial discussion in the PT thread I mentioned above (Steviepinhead’s post is here to begin the topic), but I thought it was new enough to begin a new discussion of the findings in a thread of its own. So…discuss!

75 Comments

Neither Dembski nor Ken Ham’s blog (http://info.answersingenesis.org/aroundtheworld/) have commented on this yet. I await my entertainment as they will eventually post one or more of the following:

1 it’s a lie 2 it’s irrelevent 3 it actually challenges evolution somehow 4 it proves Intelligent Design

Being pros, they will probably not signal confusion, as Blast did.

But what about the transition between the transition?

For AiG, they’ll again just emphasize it’s variation within the bird kind, probably with a sprinkle of your point #3, and maybe a dash of emphasis on previous faked fossils.

Ah! But this just doubles the Evilutionists’ problems! Where are the transitional fossils between Archaeopteryx and birds, and between dinosaurs and Archaeopteryx?

Besides, if birds are descended from Archaeopteryx, why do we still have Archaeopteryx?

Oh, wait…

“But what about the transition between the transition?”

You’re joking, right, Miguelito?

GE

The find answers little, it is still the same KIND ( what the hell is a kind????????/)

Well in this case, it’s the “between dinos and birds” kind. LOL

From the article:

Although this particular result may be due to the limited sampling of avian taxa, the presence of a deinonychosaurian key feature (a hyperextendible second toe) and the absence of two avian key features [a triradiate palatine (3) and a fully reversed first toe] in Archaeopteryx challenges the monophyly of Aves as currently recognized.

That’s what I love about the endeavor of science; its philosophy readily and heartily accepts being wrong or being inconclusive. It is human to err and just as human to have pride in our accomplishments. The fact these two forces of the ego fight and tug at each other makes science a highly moral, character-building exercise. My favorite Popper quote comes to mind:

He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game.

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Are all birds a single “Kind” according to AiG? If so, the bird kind must of went through a hell of a lot of microevolution in the last 6000 years to have ranged in size from the bee hummingbird to the extinct Elephant Birds. That would even trump the claim that Siberian tigers and house cats are the same kind.

I think it is kind of funny that Archaeopteryx is still referred to as the earliest known bird species. What makes Archaeopteryx a better bird than Microraptor gui or Cryptovolans (on an aside, has C. pauli been reclassified as a synonym for Microraptor?)? Microraptor/Cryptovolans has an uncinate process on its ribs which is present in all modern birds, but missing in Archaeopteryx as far as I know. Plus, Microraptor/Cryptovolans has a better developed keel, allowing for a stronger attachment of flight muscles. You could easily argue that Microraptor gui was a better bird than Archaeopteryx, especially now that we’ve found true birds with asymmetrical pennaceous feathers on its legs similar to those on M. gui.

If Archaeopteryx was discovered today, it would most likely be classified as yet another non-avian maniraptor. I haven’t come across any evidence in favour of achaeopteryx being a closer relative to birds, than some of the other Dromaeosaurs that were capable of flight.

I only have an amateurs knowledge of early bird evolution though, so if anyone has recent studies proving some of my points wrong, I’d love to see them.

“If Archaeopteryx was discovered today, it would most likely be classified as yet another non-avian maniraptor.”

After reading over my post again, I think the above sentence is a bit too strong to have been made by someone like me who isn’t an authority on maniraptor phylogeny. Please read it as “If Archaeopteryx was discovered today, I think there is a good chance that it would be classified as yet another non-avian maniraptor” instead.

Thanks

Guitar Eddie Wrote:

You’re joking, right, Miguelito?

Of course I am kidding.

The less obscure version of the point that I was making is that creationists will never be satisfied with any paleontological evidence we present, always claiming that there are “gaps”.

I imagine in the mindset of a creationist, for every “gap” we fill through identifying a new form, two more spring up: the “gap” before the new form and the “gap” after the new form. In this light, increasing the number of forms we have identified makes our case for evolution weaker. Anybody else want to call it quits in the face of this reasoning?

Its not “funny,” kswiston, its just how we arbitrarly choose to apply the word.

Regardless of your preference for Aves or Gauthier’s Avialae, I think everyone would agree that “birds” are those members of the clade formed by Archaeopteryx, extant birds and their most recent common ancestor. This doesnt imply that there is a huge morphological gap, only that some clade has to be birds, and historically, its been that one.

As far as the evidence for Archaeopteryx being closer to birds than traditionally non-avian maniraptorans, thats almost always the result of phylogenetic analysis. Two recent papers (Makovicky et al. 2005 and this here paper) have birds that fall out as deinonychosaurians, but really only one (Maryanska et al. 2002) has found some tradtionally non-avian dinosaurs are birds. In each of these instances, there are very good reasons to be cautious of the results, but particularly the last two.

But who knows. More taxa and/or more characters could change that. At least, lets wait until those studies are in before shaking up the maniraptoran tree.

Jonboy, no it’s not the same kind. In fact, it was quite mean. It browbeat its neighbors, gave rise to the “pecking order,” and put its beak into all sorts of places creationists wish it didn’t belong.

Kind? HAH!

I think kswiston’s point is well taken. I’m no expert either, but often we take various observations for granted. Archaeopteryx may have been one attempt at birdness that didn’t work out. Certainly it has bird-like characteristics, but that should only lead us to conclude that it has a common ancestor to birds. It could have been a dead end, and more successful bird forms worked better. In other words, the Archaeopteryx are on the same branch as modern avian species, but not necessarily in a linear fashion. We cannot say that Archaeopteryx is the mother of all birds, but perhaps the aunt of all birds.

I’m sorry, this fossil may have exquisite feet, but the baby panda is still cuter.

Bob

Darwinists just don’t get it - there are NO transitional fossils. Each species is a specially created kind.

See, in this case, the Big Guy was just practicing his bird-making skills.

Kind of like when he was practicing his People-making skills when he created all those almost-human Hominids. See, the not-so-perfect humans were poor swimmers and they all drowned first in The Flood. That’s why the fossils get further away from “modern” the further down you go in the strata. Never mind this radio-isotope dating stuff. It’s all based on Atheistic Physics and Chemistry.

Why would the Big Guy need to practice his critter-making skills over and over again? Hey, ID says only that it happened, and infers nothing about the identity, competence or nature of the Designer (wink,wink, nudge, nudge). Who says the Designer doesn’t need a few warm-up pitches?

Regardless of your preference for Aves or Gauthier’s Avialae, I think everyone would agree that “birds” are those members of the clade formed by Archaeopteryx, extant birds and their most recent common ancestor. This doesn’t imply that there is a huge morphological gap, only that some clade has to be birds, and historically, its been that one.

As far as the evidence for Archaeopteryx being closer to birds than traditionally non-avian maniraptorans, that’s almost always the result of phylogenetic analysis. Two recent papers (Makovicky et al. 2005 and this here paper) have birds that fall out as deinonychosaurians, but really only one (Maryanska et al. 2002) has found some traditionally non-avian dinosaurs are birds. In each of these instances, there are very good reasons to be cautious of the results, but particularly the last two.

But who knows. More taxa and/or more characters could change that. At least, lets wait until those studies are in before shaking up the maniraptoran tree.

Alright, I’ve finally read the Science Magazine article. Basically the authors are saying that, with their new find, in order for Archaeopteryx to be considered part of Aves, the dromaeosaurs and Troodons are all birds as well. That’s basically what I was trying to get at above. It’s not the arrangement of the maniraptoran tree that I have a problem with exactly, I just think that Aves proper should start somewhere closer to Confuciusornis than Archaeopteryx. Not that I have any say in the matter, or that it really changes anything.

Archaeopteryx was classified as a bird back in 1861 based heavily on the fact that it was feathered, and feathers were synonymous with birds. That is clearly not the case today. Feathers are pretty ubiquitous throughout Coelurosauria. Pennaceous feathers are present in Caudipteryx, which is still considered a non-avian theropod by Mayr et al’s new phylogenetic tree. I wouldn’t be surprised if powered flight originated outside of Aves as well. I guess I just don’t see a reason in classifying a large portion of Maniraptora as Aves just to keep Archaeopteryx as part of the clade.

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an observation:

Notice how most of the posters here immediately look to scientific research to understand what the significance of this finding is? Why don’t they go the bible? There is plenty of evidence in the bible to explain these kinds of things. Have you ever heard of the flood? Noah? Go to http://www.drdino.com for both scientific and philisophical proof of genesis.

Make sure to check out this one: Mt. St. Helens Explosion Gives Creation Evidence http://www.drdino.com/articles.php?spec=7

It just makes me wonder where this faith in science came from. The Bible has been around a lot longer than darwin’s theory.

Arden Chatfield wrote:

… this just doubles the Evilutionists’ problems! Where are the transitional fossils between Archaeopteryx and birds, and between dinosaurs and Archaeopteryx?

You know, if you wrote an argument like that up for ID or AiG they would probably buy it.

I appreciate Dr. Smith’s giving prominence–in her post above–to the ability of modern birds to “perch … on pirates’ shoulders.” This repaired a significant oversight in my summary of the news release:

Modern bird feet have a hind toe that points backward and helps the birds perch on branches, power lines, and pirates’ shoulders. (Emphasis added.)

I should not have overlooked this key adaptation in my initial comment on this topic. PZ, matey, and all you FSMers out there, arrhh, please forgive ol’ Steviepinhead. He din’t, like, mean no disrespect to pirates’ pollies!

Alright, I’ve finally read the Science Magazine article. Basically the authors are saying that, with their new find, in order for Archaeopteryx to be considered part of Aves, the dromaeosaurs and Troodons are all birds as well.

But thats not what the authors are saying. The analysis (using a 2004 version of the Theropod Working Group matrix, a matrix unsuited for testing the relationships of birds, and only three avian OTUs) only finds that Confuciusornis is a deinonychosaurian, or in their words, that it challenges the monophyly of Aves as currently recognized.

This doesnt make deinonychosaurians birds, since in this phylogenetic context, deinonychosaurians are still not descended from the most recent common ancestor of Archaeopteryx and Vulter. It makes Confuciusornis a deinonychosaurian.

In any case, its unwise to read too much into those results, as they themselves caution.

That’s basically what I was trying to get at above. It’s not the arrangement of the maniraptoran tree that I have a problem with exactly, I just think that Aves proper should start somewhere closer to Confuciusornis than Archaeopteryx. Not that I have any say in the matter, or that it really changes anything.

Archaeopteryx was classified as a bird back in 1861 based heavily on the fact that it was feathered, and feathers were synonymous with birds. That is clearly not the case today. Feathers are pretty ubiquitous throughout Coelurosauria. Pennaceous feathers are present in Caudipteryx, which is still considered a non-avian theropod by Mayr et al’s new phylogenetic tree. I wouldn’t be surprised if powered flight originated outside of Aves as well. I guess I just don’t see a reason in classifying a large portion of Maniraptora as Aves just to keep Archaeopteryx as part of the clade.

There is no objective reason for it. Though clades themselves are real biological entities discoverable through reproducible methods, which names clades get is entirely the product of human minds.

To the extent that we wish to use words like Aves, or its colloquial “birds,” to refer to those taxa, other criteria must be used. The fact that Archaeopteryx has been labeled a bird since its discovery seems to me a very good reason for keeping it that way.

Here it is in a nutshell: since whichever clade is called “Aves” or “birds” is ultimately nothing that can be decided by osteology, and since “Archaeopteryx and everything more derived” has held that name for well over a hundred years and is understood to by almost every human being on the planet, there is no good reason I can think of to change it.

Arrr… just don’t let it be hapnin’ agin, or ye’ll be keelhauled!

…if birds are descended from Archaeopteryx, why do we still have Archaeopteryx?

Oh, wait…

The real question is:

If Archaeopteryx clearly evolved from dinosaurs, and modern birds clearly evolved from Archaeopteryx, then why are there still creationists?

You know, if you wrote an argument like that up for ID or AiG they would probably buy it.

Nah, I plan to use my powers for good, instead of evil. :-)

Actually, I should be careful. I could see one of those lowlifes taking my quote and posting it as evidence of the ‘scientific dissent to Darwinism’ at Panda’s Thumb. :-(

To the extent that we wish to use words like Aves, or its colloquial “birds,” to refer to those taxa, other criteria must be used.

Hmmm… so which ‘kind’ would include all the species known as colloquial ‘critters’? :-)

Notice how most of the posters here immediately look to scientific research to understand what the significance of this finding is? Why don’t they go the bible? There is plenty of evidence in the bible to explain these kinds of things

Absolutely! In fact, I can’t believe no one has mentioned that the Archaeopteryx is actually mentioned in the Bible! In the Book of Leviticus, note the following passage detailing what the ancient Jews could or could not eat: 11.13 And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, 11.14 And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; 11.15 Every raven after his kind; 11.16 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind, 11.17 And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, 11.18 And the redshank, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, 11.19 And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat and the archaeopteryx after his kind;

As far as I’m concerned, that settles the issue. Case closed.

As far as I know birds which perch on the shoulders of pirates mostly have two forward toes (No. 2 and 3) and two backward ones (No. 1 and 4). According to Britannica.com this arrangement is called zygodactyl and is typical of parrots, woodpeckers, cuckoos and a few other kinds. In the ordinary bird foot it is toe No. 1 which is turned back. This arrangement is called anisodactyl, all according to Britannica.com.

Do you mind if I laugh as we read the ensuing posts together?

Go right ahead, I think it was over at ed brayton’s site.

Although I have tremendously enjoyed lurking here for the past few weeks, I am compelled to pop up this little note.

First, a disclaimer:

I am not a scientist, a teacher, or in any way qualified to weigh in on this debate scientifically. I am a college drop-out, and now own a small woodworking business with my father. I am, however, reasonably intelligent and I design the things I build, so that makes ME the intelligent designer.

I think that Lenny hit on the very first not-utterly-vacuous reason to accept I.D. in comment #61460, when he said, “if ignorance truly is bliss, then *you* must be perpetually orgasmic”. I hereby give my full support to I.D. on the basis that I would LOVE to be perpetually orgasmic.

Thank you for your support. I shall now return to my regularly scheduled lurking.

Lou

Lenny Wrote:

Mostly, I suspect, because it doesn’t exist.

Not in the mutually observable physical world - just in the realm of eternal Platonic ideals that he et al. love so much.

That is, in their minds.

It’s just one more sign of the limitations of Noah; we keep finding new special creations that he failed to get on the ark. And God gave him such simple instructions, too; you’d think any idiot could have followed them.

ben Wrote:

Blast’s argument for ID:

1) Science once proposed theory X 2) Theory X was proven to be incorrect (by scientists) 3) Science now proposes theory Y 4) Since theory X was shown to be wrong, scientists must also be wrong about theory Y 5) Blast makes specious ‘not Y’ arguments all the time 6) Therefore, Blast’s theory Z, totally unsupported by evidence and totally unrelated to ‘not Y,’ must be true

In your silliness, you overlook that I was not criticizing science–in this case genetics–for correcting itself; rather, I was criticizing it for having had to take so long to arrive at the said correction. Implicit in this criticism, is a criticism of Darwinism as that agent which slowed down the process.

In all fairness, the lab techniques that are now available are stunningly superior to anything that was available 30 years ago; and they play no small part in bringing about this changed view.

And, Lenny, I hope you did notice that (1) Dr. Fry didn’t answer directly my question about “gene recruitment”; and (2) the post(s) were closed rather quickly.

Blast are you having trouble with what a “recruitment event” is?

Have you actually read any of the papers you where pointed to? Even if you don’t understand a phrase in one brief summary you should first go read the papers that where provided to answer your question. Maybe, just maybe, you will be able to work out the phrase by the context it is used in the paper.

Another paper you can read by Dr. Fry that is on line is Assembling an Arsenal: Origin and Evolution of the Snake Venom Proteome Inferred from Phylogenetic Analysis of Toxin Sequences located at http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/c[…]ull/21/5/870

Don’t expect anyone to spoon feed you blast. You willfully distort points made in papers I’m sure very few people want you trying to distort their words directly.

And, Lenny, I hope you did notice that (1) Dr. Fry didn’t answer directly my question about “gene recruitment”;

(sigh) Blast, Blast, Blast. Anyone with an IQ above room temperature had no difficulty understanding Dr Fry. Here, let me remind you what he said:

As I mentioned before, venom toxins are NOT modified salivary proteins. Rather they are the mutation of a normal body protein for the use as a toxin. There is not a magic little amino acid sequence added on but rather changes to existing functional residues or rearrangement of molecular scaffold. All of which is new information as this is occuring on a duplicate gene to the normal body protein, not to the body protein itself.

Venom evolution is much easier to understand if you follow the data trail rather than trying to shoe-horn it into a prepackaged theory that is particularly useless.

In polite scientific terms, Blast, Dr Fry is telling you that you’re full of cow crap.

Everybody ELSE got that message. If you didn’t, then you’re even dumber than I thought. And I already thought you were pretty dumb.

and (2) the post(s) were closed rather quickly.

(sigh) Yeah, Blast — we did that deliberately so that Dr Fry wouldn’t have the chance to tell the whole world that you are correct, your frontloading hypothesis is sheer unadulterated genius, and Dr Fry is going to rush right out and nominate YOU for that next Nobel Prize.

No straw too small for you to grasp at, eh Blast?

Implicit in this criticism, is a criticism of Darwinism as that agent which slowed down the process.

Riiigggghhhhttttttt.

And what, again, did ID do to speed up this process or help it along in any way?

(sound of crickets chirping)

Can you think of any scientific discovery, of any note, in any area of science, made at any time in the past 25 years as the result of ID, uh, research?

Me neither.

Ever wonder why that might be, Blast?

Wait, wait — let me guess ——————-> the big bad evil conspiracy of atheistic god-hating scientists won’t let IDers publish anything.

Right?

and (2) the post(s) were closed rather quickly.

What did you plan to do, Blast — present Dr Fry with YOUR, uh, vast experience and knowledge on the topic . …?

Wayne Francis Wrote:

Don’t expect anyone to spoon feed you blast. You willfully distort points made in papers I’m sure very few people want you trying to distort their words directly.

If he knew the answer, then why didn’t he answer directly? Gene recruitment is just one of those words that evolutionary biologists use to try and make sense out of what they see happening. They simply give it the usual Darwinian trappings; and, yet, on close examination, they really don’t know what’s going on. It’s sort of like “exaptation”.

Rather they are the mutation of a normal body protein for the use as a toxin.

Sounds nice. What does it really mean? It means that two proteins are so similar in structure that you can hardly tell them apart, and yet they have entirely different functions in two, or more parts of the organism. How did it happen? How did it come about???? Evolution “did it.”

All of which is new information as this is occuring on a duplicate gene to the normal body protein, not to the body protein itself.

Let’s stipulate that it is, indeed, new information. Then the question is: Where did the information come from? Answer: Evolution “did it.” Why? Because I say so. No, really,..Is there some pathway? Are there “intermediate molecular forms”? No. Just a before and after. There’s simply change. Mutation brings about changes in the nucleotide sequence. (And, as Darwinists love tautologies, the follow-up question: What is a mutation? It is a change in nucleotide sequences.)

Here’s a quote from a paper:

This kind of gene recruitment reverses the conventional view that gene duplication must precede the acquisition of new protein functions. Thus, in birds and crocodiles, the glycolytic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase B (LDHB) serves two distinct functions as both an enzyme and as Epsilon-crystallin, a major constituent of the lens.”

So, how does evolution work? Gene duplication and then mutation. What is gene recruitment? Mutation and then gene duplication. What is the result of gene recruitment? Evolution.

You see, Darwinism is never wrong.

Blast Wrote:

Mutation brings about changes in the nucleotide sequence. (And, as Darwinists love tautologies, the follow-up question: What is a mutation? It is a change in nucleotide sequences.)

It’s not a tautology, it’s a definition. From the Alberts textbook I know you have:

Mutation: Heritable change in the nucleotide sequence of a chromosome.

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Since you’re here, Blast, perhaps you could clarify your comments about HeLa cells that you made in a different thread. You suggested that they are not a new life form. Are you saying that they are not new, or that they are not alive?

BlastfromthePast Wrote:

Gene recruitment is just one of those words that evolutionary biologists use to try and make sense out of what they see happening.

Trying to make sense about what they see happening? Those bastards!

Rather they are the mutation of a normal body protein for the use as a toxin.

Sounds nice. What does it really mean? It means that two proteins are so similar in structure that you can hardly tell them apart, and yet they have entirely different functions in two, or more parts of the organism.

What? It doesn’t mean that at all. Different functions, sure, and but you pulled “so similar in structure that you can hardly tell them apart” out of the ether. While omitting the entire meaning of “mutation,” incidentally.

All of which is new information as this is occuring on a duplicate gene to the normal body protein, not to the body protein itself.

Let’s stipulate that it is, indeed, new information. Then the question is: Where did the information come from? Answer: Evolution “did it.” Why? Because I say so.

Oh, dear. I thought we’d already worked out that you accept the occurrence of unrepaired spontaneous mutations. Are you changing your mind again? Or are you simply working off some highly idiosyncratic definition of “information?”

No, really,..Is there some pathway? Are there “intermediate molecular forms”? No. Just a before and after. There’s simply change. Mutation brings about changes in the nucleotide sequence.

A pathway of “intermediate molecular forms” on the way to a single mutation event? What would that even mean? Can you show me examples of “intermediate atomic forms” between hydrogen and helium, and if not, do you deny nuclear fusion?

(Actually, if all you want are descriptions of the DNA molecule during the extremely brief time between initial damage and its stable permanently mutated form, just crack open a genetics textbook–for that matter, the Cirz et al. paper discusses it briefly.)

Here’s a quote from a paper:

“This kind of gene recruitment reverses the conventional view that gene duplication must precede the acquisition of new protein functions. Thus, in birds and crocodiles, the glycolytic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase B (LDHB) serves two distinct functions as both an enzyme and as Epsilon-crystallin, a major constituent of the lens.”

So, how does evolution work? Gene duplication and then mutation.

Wow. I’ve seen examples of quote-mining before, but that’s the first time I’ve seen quote-mining used to argue a claim directly contradicted by the quote itself. Thanks, Internet!

What is gene recruitment? Mutation and then gene duplication.

No, other way round. Oh, and the initial gene duplication event is itself a mutation. If you’re going to mock this idea effectively, you probably want to describe it correctly…

What is the result of gene recruitment? Evolution.

Or, rather, gene recruitment is an example of evolution.

You see, Darwinism is never wrong.

Dunno about that, but you just proved it’s self-consistent at least. Good job!

If he knew the answer

Blast, your arrogant pig-ignorance is staggering.

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on December 2, 2005 10:01 AM.

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