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More Upsets for Darwin

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For every hyped-up demonstration of evolution in action the media announces with gusto, there are setbacks that often do not get the splashy headlines.  Here are three recent examples.

Treehopper evolution wasn’t:   Recently a “spectacular” announcement that some bugs called treehoppers had evolved a new functional appendage has been found false.  “Evidence for aspectacular evolutionary novelty was recently reported,” wrote nine scientists in PLoS ONE,claiming that the treehopper bugs evolved their odd-looking “helmet” as new thoracic appendages.  Those evolutionists, publishing in Nature,2 were not at all modest in their pronouncement: “Here we show that the treehopper (Membracidae) ‘helmet’ is actually an appendage, a wing serial homologue on the first thoracic segment. This innovation in the insect body plan is an unprecedented situation in 250 Myr of insect evolution.”

Wrong, the  new team reports.  It’s not a novelty, but a common and widely-distributed feature among hemiptera (true bugs) – just an invagination of tissue, not a distinct limb.  The new paper not only corrects the error but criticizes the evolutionists who proposed the wrong idea, telling them basically they should have consulted the insect experts (entomologists) before hopping to a Darwin-tree conclusion.  “The treehopper pronotal wing hypothesis yields examples of misinterpretation that could have been avoided through updated best practices in phenotype knowledge representation and the broader development of anatomical references,” they said.

Wish Ida known:  Remember Ida, the extinct lemur that briefly made a splash in the science headlines as being a possible human ancestor? (5/19/2009, 3/03/2010).   The discoverer even paid homage to Darwin by naming it Darwinius masillae, and it became the star of a TV documentary.   Live Science reported this month that new evidence is casting doubt on it having anything to do with the human line.  Another similar lemur fossil from Wyoming shows a grooming claw characteristic of mammals on other branches of the assumed evolutionary line of primates.  “After examining the data, both with and without information about the grooming claw,” therefore, “it appeared both these ancient primates were more closely related to lemurs than to monkeys, apes and humans.”….

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