An ink sac from a fossilized Jurassic cephalopod said to be 160 million years old looks identical to those from living cuttlefish.
Science Daily did not blink at the surprise that something would not evolve for 160 million years. Indeed, the reporter seemed to relish what this means for evolution. Quoting John Simon (University of Virginia), the article even highlighted the fact that this cephalopod had a complex machinery to operate its inky escape:
“It’s close enough that I would argue that the pigmentation in this class of animals has not evolved in 160 million years,” Simon said. “The whole machinery apparently has been locked in time and passed down through succeeding generations of cuttlefish. It’s a very optimized system for this animal and has been optimized for a long time.”
Live Science, similarly, did not consider this a problem for evolution. Reporter Stephanie Pappas even dubbed the fossil a “cuttlefish ancestor” even though its ink sac looks like that of an identical twin.
All the popular reports based on the UVA Today press release, including the echo on PhysOrg, pointed out that original melanin protein was present in the fossil:
Generally animal tissue, made up mostly of protein, degrades quickly. Over the course of millions of years all that is likely to be found from an animal is skeletal remains or an impression of the shape of the animal in surrounding rock. Scientists can learn much about an animal by its bones and impressions, but without organic matter they are left with many unanswered questions.
But melanin is an exception. Though organic, it is highly resilient to degradation over the course of vast amounts of time….
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