Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Evolution of a mini mammoth

BBC news reported today on discovery of a ‘dwarf mammoth’ (? A contradiction in terms perhaps?) discovered on Crete.

On the BBC web site we read

‘Mammuthus creticus was roughly the size of a modern baby elephant and is the smallest mammoth known to have existed. Its larger ancestors are thought to have shrunk in size after becoming stranded on the Greek island....

Dwarfism is an evolutionary trait often seen on islands where there may be insufficient space and resources to support full-sized species. M. creticus was identified by experts who re-examined a collection of fossil teeth at London's Natural History Museum....

The teeth were unearthed by pioneering fossil hunter Dorothea Bate in 1904. For more than a century they were assumed to belong to a dwarf-form of the straight-tusked elephant, Palaeoloxodon antiquus.
Further proof came when the scientists retraced Ms Bate's footsteps in Crete and found a mini-sized mammoth upper arm bone. (I assume she means foreleg, I didn't know mammoths had arms-ED)

"Lead researcher Dr Victoria Herridge, from the Natural History Museum, said: "Dwarfism is a well-known evolutionary response of large mammals to island environments. Our findings show that on Crete, island dwarfism occurred to an extreme degree, producing the smallest mammoth known so far. "

"As such, we can show that this extreme insular evolution has taken place independently in two different non-dwarf elephant lineages of the straight-tusked elephants, Palaeoloxodon, and mammoths, Mammuthus. This opens up the possibility that dwarf mammoths evolved on Crete much earlier than we previously thought, perhaps as early as 3.5 million years ago.’

I suppose they are absolutely certain that it wasn't just a juvenile mammoth? And that indeed mammoths and elephants are really distinct species and not just varieties? I wonder how much of this is speculation given the tiny amount of actual fossil evidence they have, but in any event it hardly seems newsworthy. As to the evolutionary significance, I don't think any young earth biblical literalist creationist has a problem with the concept of a species on an island diminishing in size due to interaction between its limited gene pool and environmental factors such as limited food supply, climate etc. If due to environmental factors smallness became an advantage-given that size is a naturally occuring variable in any gene pool, so no new specific information would need to arise- and was selected for, fine, but is this evolution? Human dwarfs are still fully human. It may not even have been genetic selection, simply not enough to eat leading to short stature as we see in some underfed humans. As with the banal examples of selective breeding producing limited cyclical variation in dogs, pigeons etc Darwin used 150 odd years ago, this tells us absolutely nothing about how elephants or mammoths came to be in the first place. Elephants haven't changed during recorded human history and there is no evidence that they ever had ancestors which were anything other than elephants. This over hyped story does nothing to dent the obvious conclusion that such a marvellous creature is just that, a creature-something that was created by a mind and hand as far beyond ours as ours is beyond an earthworm's.

This over hyped report about 'nearly nothing' only provides further evidence of how well funded evolutionists are and what tiny amounts of evidence they blow up into such great stories which their ever loving BBC choses to promote uncritically. The BBC is forever running stories like this on the main morning news, while totally failing to cover intelligent design or allow any sceptical questions. The ordinary member of the public who listens to this sort of one sided propaganda broadcasting year in year out, never hearing the other side of the story or any critical comment, becomes convinced by steady repetition that evolution is supported by 'mountains of overwhelming evidence' and there is literally no case or argument against it. But if you actually look at the physical evidence, a few scraps of old bone, all this amounts to is that a long time ago there were some elephants on the island of Crete, and at least those of whom remains have been found were small for elephants.

So what?

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