Cambrian faunas

| 73 Comments

Rush hour in the Cambrian. Photograph by Christopher Nedin.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Nedin.Cambrian4.jpg

Redlichia takooensis (x2), Estangia bilobata, trilobites; Anomalocaris briggsi (x2); Isoxys communis, Phyllocarid. Lower Cambrian Emu Bay Shale, South Australia.

73 Comments

How come I can’t see any human footprints in this fossil? Did the evil science-talkin’ guys photoshop it out?

I love the caption, but, where are the traffic lights?

Looks to this creationist like the creatures was entombed suddenly with the entombing sediments likewise entombed. So it all was frozen by the great pressure of sediment/water on the material. In fact this is the origin for all fossil and sedimentary rock etc. There is no cambrian age. in fact its just a part of the planet that was entombed during a single great event. It looks just like it should look. Sediment collected and turned to stone by the same powerful agent. Why is this not obvious?

Robert Byers Wrote:

Looks to this creationist like the creatures was entombed suddenly with the entombing sediments likewise entombed. So it all was frozen by the great pressure of sediment/water on the material. In fact this is the origin for all fossil and sedimentary rock etc. There is no cambrian age.

As you know, most Discovery Institute folk think there definitely was a Cambrian period, and that it began over 540 million years ago. If you are truly serious that you doubt that, you must have some feedback from them by now. Do you?

Booby, would love to introduce to members of the Romulan Tal Shiar or the Cardassian Obsidian Order. You’re a prime candidate for interrogation by either one:

Robert Byers said:

Looks to this creationist like the creatures was entombed suddenly with the entombing sediments likewise entombed. So it all was frozen by the great pressure of sediment/water on the material. In fact this is the origin for all fossil and sedimentary rock etc. There is no cambrian age. in fact its just a part of the planet that was entombed during a single great event. It looks just like it should look. Sediment collected and turned to stone by the same powerful agent. Why is this not obvious?

A little confirmation bias there, Robert? PZ Myers had a great post over at Pharyngula about the tactics of the Creation Museum (sic). The foundational principle of the creationists is that all science must be viewed through the prism of the Bible, which is viewed as the ultimate source of all (including scientific) knowledge. Anything that strays from the Bible is therefore - by definition - wrong.

C’mon. Robert Byers was obviously tongue-in-cheek.

Since no one has commented yet (seriously) about the photograph, I should note that the long “jaw” is actually one of the grasping appendages of the Middle Cambrian carnivorous arthropod Anomalocaris, which was the keystone predator of the Middle Cambrian oceans (best known of course for the Burgess Shale fauna). While anomalocarids were thought to become extinct at the end of the Cambrian, there was a paper published early last year - by a team which included Yale paleontologist Derek Briggs - of an Early Devonian anomalocarid arthropod (this one was a mere pygmy compared to its much larger “ancestor”).

Lurker111 said:

C’mon. Robert Byers was obviously tongue-in-cheek.

That would be an improvement, seeing as he’s usually head-in-ass.

You know, I just read on the internet that the Cambrian explosion took about a week. We are lucky there are any fossils at all.

We have to thank a Klingon fleet orbiting the Earth for that:

Helena Constantine said:

You know, I just read on the internet that the Cambrian explosion took about a week. We are lucky there are any fossils at all.

Am sure that’s something Derek Briggs, Simon Conway Morris and Harry Whittington didn’t consider when they were reinterpreting Charles Walcott’s discovery of the Burgess Shale Fauna.

But perhaps, our dear friend Booby has.

Robert Byers said:

Looks to this creationist like the creatures was entombed suddenly with the entombing sediments likewise entombed. So it all was frozen by the great pressure of sediment/water on the material. In fact this is the origin for all fossil and sedimentary rock etc. There is no cambrian age. in fact its just a part of the planet that was entombed during a single great event. It looks just like it should look. Sediment collected and turned to stone by the same powerful agent. Why is this not obvious?

A single global flood in recent times would not have produced fossil layers in the order we see them. Instead, there must have been thousands of smaller and local floods over millions of years.

Falsehoods are never obvious, of course.

Damn fine photo, Chris.

I’m not aware of any catastrophic event that would turn sediment to stone in a short amount of time.

The Devonian anomalocarid: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YJtJVrH3c[…]Bartelsi.jpg

That’s pretty rad, in my book. Anomalocarids are creepy as hell. Almost glad we don’t have any left. Then again… The ocean is a big-ass place. Could be they degenerated to a nearly microscopic form and we just haven’t happened across it yet.

Coming soon: ANOMALOCARIS: BLOODY SWARM, on SyFy!

Anomalocaris has always been my favourite, ever since Wonderful Life. Big suckers, aren’t they.

Oh, yeah: How does Byers get his foot in his mouth when he’s got his head so far up his ass?

I read Wonderful Life in a lawn chair. The chair sat in the back yard of a modest, west coast of Florida home. Late spring of 1990. Hot and steamy. In the evening the night closed in darkly, with many voices, softly soliciting.

When I closed the book and emerged from my own private Cambrian it was as though I had broken through a barrier and actually met some of the distant ancestors of present day life.

Oh, yeah. It took longer than a week. I frequently re-read, slowing, no, prolonging my digestion of a book.

Nice to see some pictures of some old friends as dead as the may be. They were alive.

fnxtr said:

Oh, yeah: How does Byers get his foot in his mouth when he’s got his head so far up his ass?

He’s from the fifth dimension?

I met Briggs at the World Science Festival here in New York City last June and remarked that the Devonian anomalocarid was akin to finding a living Velociraptor in the Amazon. He said no then, but when I saw him again last week, he just smiled and laughed:

CS Shelton said:

The Devonian anomalocarid: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YJtJVrH3c[…]Bartelsi.jpg

That’s pretty rad, in my book. Anomalocarids are creepy as hell. Almost glad we don’t have any left. Then again… The ocean is a big-ass place. Could be they degenerated to a nearly microscopic form and we just haven’t happened across it yet.

Coming soon: ANOMALOCARIS: BLOODY SWARM, on SyFy!

As for coming attractions, CS, I have an odd feeling you’ll be hearing more about Anomalocaris soon, REAL SOON.

Well I think Booby would be a suitable feast for a pack of hungry Anomalocaris, or, even, Velociraptors:

fnxtr said:

Anomalocaris has always been my favourite, ever since Wonderful Life. Big suckers, aren’t they.

Oh, yeah: How does Byers get his foot in his mouth when he’s got his head so far up his ass?

CS Shelton said:

The Devonian anomalocarid: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YJtJVrH3c[…]Bartelsi.jpg

That’s pretty rad, in my book. Anomalocarids are creepy as hell. Almost glad we don’t have any left. Then again… The ocean is a big-ass place. Could be they degenerated to a nearly microscopic form and we just haven’t happened across it yet.

Coming soon: ANOMALOCARIS: BLOODY SWARM, on SyFy!

Great Cthulhu! Don’t give them any more ideas!

John Kwok said:

Well I think Booby would be a suitable feast for a pack of hungry Anomalocaris, or, even, Velociraptors:

fnxtr said:

Anomalocaris has always been my favourite, ever since Wonderful Life. Big suckers, aren’t they.

Oh, yeah: How does Byers get his foot in his mouth when he’s got his head so far up his ass?

Only if you wanted to give them food poisoning.

Lurker111 said:

C’mon. Robert Byers was obviously tongue-in-cheek.

I first thought so, considering his style (especially the “YEC here” intro) and how he neatly evades questions that “serious” creationists (e.g. FL) feel obligated to at least acknowledge, if not answer. But then I saw how he has been doing it for years on many websites. Such persistence may be an indication that he truly believes his nonsense. But then again, when I see how much “feeding” he gets, and how the net effect makes creationism/ID look even more pathetic, then I’m back to wondering if he is playing a game.

Poe’s Law: it’s not “only a theory”. ;-)

Mike Elzinga said:

fnxtr said:

Oh, yeah: How does Byers get his foot in his mouth when he’s got his head so far up his ass?

He’s from the fifth dimension?

Yes well it’s certainly “Up, Up and Away” with him, isn’t it.

CS Shelton said:

The Devonian anomalocarid: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YJtJVrH3c[…]Bartelsi.jpg

Coming soon: ANOMALOCARIS: BLOODY SWARM, on SyFy!

It’s probably already an episode of Primeval.

Alex H said: Only if you wanted to give them food poisoning.

That reminds me of one thing that I’ve wondered for a while: If we could get a hold of living creatures from back then (anywhere in the Cambrian to the Permian) would they be edible?

Definitely. People eat snails and bivalves now, so why wouldn’t they dine on Paleozoic ones? Not only them, but jellyfish, fishes and tetrapods, and many others, including, insects, would be edible. Going out on a limb, I’d say even trilobites and Anomalocaris too:

Jesse said:

Alex H said: Only if you wanted to give them food poisoning.

That reminds me of one thing that I’ve wondered for a while: If we could get a hold of living creatures from back then (anywhere in the Cambrian to the Permian) would they be edible?

Highly unlikely:

fnxtr said:

CS Shelton said:

The Devonian anomalocarid: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YJtJVrH3c[…]Bartelsi.jpg

Coming soon: ANOMALOCARIS: BLOODY SWARM, on SyFy!

It’s probably already an episode of Primeval.

But I think we’ll be reading more about it soon, and that it might be the topic of a forthcoming PT entry.

If we could get a hold of living creatures from back then (anywhere in the Cambrian to the Permian) would they be edible?

Of course they would be edible – you can eat anything you want. Amanita verna is edible. Unfortunately, if you eat it, it will kill you.

Matt Young said:

If we could get a hold of living creatures from back then (anywhere in the Cambrian to the Permian) would they be edible?

Of course they would be edible – you can eat anything you want. Amanita verna is edible. Unfortunately, if you eat it, it will kill you.

Edible as in fit for eating as in it won’t kill me and might even have some nutritional value. I’m just wondering how different or similar the biochemistry was back 400 or 500 million years ago.

Jesse said:

Matt Young said:

If we could get a hold of living creatures from back then (anywhere in the Cambrian to the Permian) would they be edible?

Of course they would be edible – you can eat anything you want. Amanita verna is edible. Unfortunately, if you eat it, it will kill you.

Edible as in fit for eating as in it won’t kill me and might even have some nutritional value. I’m just wondering how different or similar the biochemistry was back 400 or 500 million years ago.

Humans can eat an incredibly diverse variety of organisms, from kelp to other humans. Barring some sort of unknown chemical in their makeup that renders them toxic, there’s no reason to suspect we couldn’t eat them.

eric said:

hoary puccoon said: What Siever says is that mud will not turn into shale while under sea water.

You needed a study to show flood geology is wrong? Hmmm, I wonder what sort of research money I can get for the following study proposal:

Step 1: wade into ocean beyond low tide mark

Step 2: attempt to stick hand in ground

Sept 3: repeat 50 days later

Step 4: if hand goes in, confirm that underwater soil not solidify into rock after 40 days under water.

Obvious procedural variations can be used if someone argues the flood was freshwater (use the Mississippi) or only applies to certain types of soil (find an appropriate spot, or import it), or only applies to deep water (use scuba gear).

You don’t even need to get your feet wet!

You just need to site a webcam somewhere where there’s a good tidal range and you can watch the mud not turning into shale every time the tide goes out.

Newport in South Wales would be a good place. The tidal range is very large, and the banks of the River Usk are very, very muddy.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/480284[…]0/120869595/

Eric– No, I didn’t need a study to show flood geology was wrong. But I didn’t know exactly how shale does form, so I looked for somebody who had done some serious work in that field. And surprise, surprise, I actually learned something. It’s getting the facts straight, after all, that separates scientists from creationists.

Kevin B said:

eric said:

hoary puccoon said: What Siever says is that mud will not turn into shale while under sea water.

You needed a study to show flood geology is wrong? Hmmm, I wonder what sort of research money I can get for the following study proposal:

Step 1: wade into ocean beyond low tide mark

Step 2: attempt to stick hand in ground

Sept 3: repeat 50 days later

Step 4: if hand goes in, confirm that underwater soil not solidify into rock after 40 days under water.

Obvious procedural variations can be used if someone argues the flood was freshwater (use the Mississippi) or only applies to certain types of soil (find an appropriate spot, or import it), or only applies to deep water (use scuba gear).

You don’t even need to get your feet wet!

You just need to site a webcam somewhere where there’s a good tidal range and you can watch the mud not turning into shale every time the tide goes out.

Newport in South Wales would be a good place. The tidal range is very large, and the banks of the River Usk are very, very muddy.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/480284[…]0/120869595/

Funny thing, I was thinking I’d like that a location like Kauai would be an ideal site for such a study. I know geological field work can be grueling, but with suitable grant support I might be up to dealing with the rigors of this location …

Dornier Pfeil said:

Byers is the real deal.

Presuming, of course, that is the same Byers.

Now, this is hilarious: http://www.rae.org/marsupials.html

Creationists must address this important matter because it appears logical and evolutionists often cite it. We must be able to give good answers to all questions based on our confidence in the Bible as the accurate account of beginnings. These answers can be interesting and even advance studies in biogeography and biology. A careful examination of fossil and living creatures does provide a persuasive answer that all creationists can boldly and simply assert.

Let me translate that into “real” language:

Creationists must make up some lie about this important matter because it appears logical and evolutionists often cite it. We must be able to continue to confuse people about the facts regarding questions based on their delusions about the Bible as the accurate account of beginnings. These answers can be interesting and even advance the cause of religious fundamenalism without which most of us would be out of business. A distortion of the evidence of fossil and living creatures does provide a persuasive answer that all creationists can boldly and simply assert without any hint of ethical consistency.

Kevin B said:

eric said:

hoary puccoon said: What Siever says is that mud will not turn into shale while under sea water.

You needed a study to show flood geology is wrong? Hmmm, I wonder what sort of research money I can get for the following study proposal:

Step 1: wade into ocean beyond low tide mark

Step 2: attempt to stick hand in ground

Sept 3: repeat 50 days later

Step 4: if hand goes in, confirm that underwater soil not solidify into rock after 40 days under water.

Obvious procedural variations can be used if someone argues the flood was freshwater (use the Mississippi) or only applies to certain types of soil (find an appropriate spot, or import it), or only applies to deep water (use scuba gear).

You don’t even need to get your feet wet!

You just need to site a webcam somewhere where there’s a good tidal range and you can watch the mud not turning into shale every time the tide goes out.

Newport in South Wales would be a good place. The tidal range is very large, and the banks of the River Usk are very, very muddy.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/480284[…]0/120869595/

Or just look at the silt piled up behind many of our dams. Most of that has been around for considerably longer than 40 days.

SWT said:

Kevin B said: You don’t even need to get your feet wet!

You just need to site a webcam somewhere…

Funny thing, I was thinking I’d like that a location like Kauai would be an ideal site for such a study.

Exactly. Webcam? Dam? Pfeh. The study cannot be done properly without a 50-day excursion to some tropical beach. :)

Matt Young said:

With apologies to Betty Comden and Adolph Green:

Why, oh why, oh why, oh –

Why do you argue with this guy, oh?

If Idiot Byers won’t go away, and if Idiot Byers is free to post as much idiocy as he wants, where ever he wants, what else are we going to do?

PseudoPserious said:

Matt Young said:

Of course they would be edible – you can eat anything you want. Amanita verna is edible. Unfortunately, if you eat it, it will kill you.

Please forgive the OT question, but does anyone know why Amanita verna and its ilk are toxic? Not what chemicals makes them toxic, but why they produce those toxins. A quick Google didn’t find an answer.

In other words, is the toxicity an “intended” effect or an unfortunate (for us) side-effect?

Thanks!

PP

I’m just postulating, but, I get the impression that the toxins in toxic mushrooms may be an unfortunate (from a human’s point of view) accident, with the toxins being the end result of metabolism. I postulate this, as it wouldn’t make sense to guard the fruiting bodies against vertebrate predators, given as how they tend to last anywhere from a few hours to a few months, and the most destructive threats to mushrooms, i.e., fungus gnats, parasitic fungi, fungus maggots and snails and slugs, don’t appear to be bothered by deadly mushroom toxins at all.

And then there’s the fact that many genera include many closely related species that are either edibility or poisonous, or sometimes both. The genus Amanita, alone, runs the full gamut from delicacies prized since time immemorial to infamous killers. If I had a penny for every mushroom book that sang the praises of the Blusher and the Caesar’s Amanitas, while simultaneously admonishing you to never ever ever attempt to hunt for them for fear of confusing them with the Panther Amanita or Fly Agaric, I could afford to import a box of Godiva alcoholic chocolate liqueur cherries.

Meanwhile, going back to the older question on the edibility palatability of animals like trilobites, Richard Fortey once mentioned how he and his wife went to a restaurant in Thailand, and, upon seeing a horseshoe crab crawling around in the aquarium, they ordered it for dinner. From what he wrote, he said that it (and her eggs) had a bittersweet taste with a very metallic tang, and he and his wife found it to be rather disagreeable and unappetizing.

If Idiot Byers won’t go away, and if Idiot Byers is free to post as much idiocy as he wants, where ever he wants, what else are we going to do?

You could ignore him. If you don’t feed trolls, they usually starve or shut up.

Remember this advice from my wise father: Be careful arguing with a jackass, else there may soon be 2 jackasses having an argument.

Agreed. Maybe if we all ignored Byers - whom I am ignoring now - maybe he would just go away and try infesting another blog that’s worth his intellectual weight in gold, Uncommon Dissent:

Matt Young said:

If Idiot Byers won’t go away, and if Idiot Byers is free to post as much idiocy as he wants, where ever he wants, what else are we going to do?

You could ignore him. If you don’t feed trolls, they usually starve or shut up.

Remember this advice from my wise father: Be careful arguing with a jackass, else there may soon be 2 jackasses having an argument.

Dave Lovell said:

Robert Byers said:

Its about great pressure on water collecting and stamping powerfully the same into rock. A instant action and not this slow idea which seems impossible and not needed.

Have you noticed how sunken ships like Bismarck and Titanic have buried themselves twenty feet into mud, despite being over two and a half miles under water. Care to speculate as to why this is still mud after thousands of years, when sediments deposited in parts of the Himalayas barely covered by the flood for a few weeks have become rock?

It is a recipe to turn sediment into stone. Yet both sides must agree this happens. We simply speed the process up. Another poster talked about speculations on how this happens. Its never been witnessed/testable so its not science. The mud on the ships either is not actually powerfully pressurized upon the underlying sediment. I think also one needs to stamp sediment into stone with more sediment plus pressure. Regardless of the recipe its a clear and easier conclusion that sediment/life is more likely instant turned too stone by great pressure from above and not these strange ideas of slow process endlessly repeating themselves.

Has anyone noticed how Byers posts in the wee small hours, if he’s in Canada. Is it so the damfool things he says are not going to face moderation for a while?

Run, trilobite, run!

That’s an amazing fossil.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on May 3, 2010 12:00 PM.

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