Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Snakes with legs and fish with feet — science marches on
"Some people say that paleontologists are not 'true' scientists because we can’t do experiments in the same way a physicist can, and because of that, paleontologists have been accused of having 'physics envy' writes Dale Gnidovec, curator of the Orton Geological Museum at Ohio State University, in The Columbus Dispatch. "Yet we work in the same way."
"A physicist makes predictions" Gnidovec points out, "then gathers data and determines whether the data support or contradict the predictions. Paleontologists also make predictions, and then gather data — fossils — to determine whether the theory needs alteration."
"Najash [a 90-million-year-old snake with legs] is the sort of intermediate that was predicted to have occurred between lizards and snakes, adds Gnidovec. "Similarly, the recent discovery of tiktaalik, a fish with leglike fins, was predicted to have occurred between fish and amphibians."