Strange sea-dwelling reptile fossil hints at rapid evolution after mass extinction

May 23, 2016
Sclerocormus parviceps, the newly described marine reptile. Credit: © Da-yong Jiang

Two hundred and fifty million years ago, life on earth was in a tail-spin—climate change, volcanic eruptions, and rising sea levels contributed to a mass extinction that makes the death of the dinosaurs look like child's play. Marine life got hit hardest—96% of all marine species went extinct. For a long time, scientists believed that the early marine reptiles that came about after the mass extinction evolved slowly, but the recent discovery of a strange new fossil brings that view into question.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, paleontologists describe a new marine reptile, Sclerocormus parviceps, an ichthyosauriform that's breaking all the rules about what ichthyosaurs are like.

Ichthyosaurs were a massive group of marine reptiles that lived around the time of the earliest . Most of them looked a little bit like today's dolphins—streamlined bodies, long beak-like snouts, and powerful tail fins. But the new species is something of a black sheep. It has a short snout (its species name even means "small skull"), and instead of a tail with triangular flukes (think of a fish's tail-fins), it had a long, whip-like tail without big fins at the end. And while many ichthyosaurs had conical teeth for catching prey, Sclerocormus was toothless and instead seems to have used its short snout to create pressure and suck up food like a syringe. In short, it's really different from most of its relatives, and that tells scientists something important about evolution.

"Sclerocormus tells us that ichthyosauriforms evolved and diversified rapidly at the end of the Lower Triassic period," explains Olivier Rieppel, The Field Museum's Rowe Family Curator of Evolutionary Biology. "We don't have many marine reptile fossils from this period, so this specimen is important because it suggests that there's diversity that hasn't been uncovered yet."

The way this new species evolved into such a different form so quickly sheds light on how evolution actually works. "Darwin's model of evolution consists of small, gradual changes over a long period of time, and that's not quite what we're seeing here. These ichthyosauriforms seem to have evolved very quickly, in short bursts of lots of change, in leaps and bounds," says Rieppel.

Animals like Sclerocormus that lived just after a also reveal how life responds to huge environmental pressures. "We're in a mass extinction right now, not one caused by volcanoes or meteorites, but by humans," explains Rieppel. "So while the extinction 250 million years ago won't tell us how to solve what's going on today, it does bear on the evolutionary theory at work. How do we understand the recovery and rebuilding of a food chain, of an ecosystem? How does that get fixed, and what comes first?"

Explore further: 'Hammerhead' creature was world's first plant-eating marine reptile

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FredJose
1 / 5 (20) May 23, 2016
climate change, volcanic eruptions, and rising sea levels contributed to a mass extinction that makes the death of the dinosaurs look like child's play.

This sounds exactly like what one would expect from the Global Flood event. They left out the breaking up of the single land-mass and the SPRINT of separate masses into their different positions as well as the rapid reversal of the polar direction of the magnetic field within a few weeks timespan.
Note that any decline in field strength to zero would have meant an end of life if it happened over the supposed 100k years proposed by evolutionary standards.
The hot sea- water then left the climate in the ideal state for the single catastrophic ice-age to follow - there is no other viable explanation for the formation of "ice-ages" on earth - search the internet to confirm if you disagree.

Oh, yes, just so by the way - this statement made by the authors are pure unscientific speculation since it was never observed.
Guy_Underbridge
4.5 / 5 (15) May 23, 2016
...what one would expect from the Global Flood event.
as in 'with Noah' ?

...search the internet to confirm if you disagree
Hey! I did indeed find it!
https://upload.wi...-you.jpg
Otto_Szucks
1.2 / 5 (13) May 23, 2016
http://phys.org/n...tml#nRlv

Compare this article with the one in the link whose March 8, 2016 headline is: "Slower evolution and climate change drove ichthyosaurs to extinction".
Both mention intense climate change, but the link offers that ichthyosaurs "were driven to extinction by intense climate change and their own failure to evolve quickly enough," - whereas, the article in this thread offers a different explanation of the extinction of the Sclerocormus parviceps, which is: climate change, volcanic eruptions, and rising sea levels contributed to a mass extinction - "Sclerocormus tells us that ichthyosauriforms evolved and diversified rapidly at the end of the Lower Triassic period"
OTOH, one mentions 'slower evolution', while this new find tells us of 'rapid evolution'. Why the discrepancy when both are of one species - ichthyosaurus - in spite of diversity. What caused such rapid evolution in that era?
Guy_Underbridge
4.5 / 5 (17) May 23, 2016
Compare this article with the one in the link

This article seems to refer to the Permian–Triassic extinction event, whereas the other states 'beginning of the Late Cretaceous... Ichthyosaurs disappeared in the course of this turnover'. A lot of time.
What this article appears to be saying is that the scale of the extinction event may have impacted the rate of evolution, maybe?

Edit: Awww, how cute. Tootie is back 1-ing me. Hope you get feeling better, Hon.
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (17) May 23, 2016
...what one would expect from the Global Flood event.
as in 'with Noah' ?

...search the internet to confirm if you disagree
Hey! I did indeed find it!
- G_U

Many cultures in different parts of the world tell of a massive flood that was unlike any other, very similar to that of Noah's time.
But perhaps there was another earlier "big flood", caused by the global warming/climate change that melted the polar ice in addition to heavy and prolonged rains. Heat from underwater volcanic eruptions could have killed off massive sea life, including ichthyosaurs.
This may all have occurred to make way for a "different" type of life form - mankind, as well as the beasts.
You may THINK that the story of Noah's flood is merely a spiritual myth.
But it does work in concert with Nature and the natural order that is within the confines of the Laws of matter/energy. In particular, Genesis. Most religious people don't even understand that concept, unfortunately.
Otto_Szucks
1.4 / 5 (15) May 23, 2016
Compare this article with the one in the link

This article seems to refer to the Permian–Triassic extinction event, whereas the other states 'beginning of the Late Cretaceous... Ichthyosaurs disappeared in the course of this turnover'. A lot of time.
What this article appears to be saying is that the scale of the extinction event may have impacted the rate of evolution, maybe?

Edit: Awww, how cute. Tootie is back 1-ing me. Hope you get feeling better, Hon.
- G_U
Your "tooty" seems to have only joined Physorg in July of 2015 and with no comments at all. Tooty is obviously one of Theghostofotto's gang rating sock puppets. Pay no attention. Here, I'll give you a FIVE.
The point I'm referencing is the strange evolutionary differences of rapid and slow processes, not the eras in which it takes place. There had to be a strong catalyst that made slow evolution jump to rapid before extinction.
richardwenzel987
4.7 / 5 (14) May 23, 2016
Science works best when you minimize a priori assumptions. So there is really no room for any mythology. Stick to the evidence, all of the evidence available, and you'd never, ever, conclude that any sort of "global flood" took place. And you'd never conclude that humans are anything other than the product of a long, slow, evolutionary process. On the other hand, if you can't, or won't, be objective there's really no telling what sort of stuff you'll come up with. You can still be a believer, of course, but if your beliefs don't conform to the objective evidence, those beliefs need to be updated and revised. Otherwise, you remain an ignorant savage, living in the darkness. Primitivism is the path to extinction.
Otto_Szucks
1.3 / 5 (16) May 23, 2016
Science is, itself, based largely on speculation AND assumption - tempered in part with data from past discoveries that certain assumptions & speculations were, in fact, correct. But, NOT ALL assumptions were found to be correct and the players were forced to return to square one to try to figure where they went wrong. Garbage in, garbage out. It is for these reasons that it is folly to conclude anything that concerns ancient history, whether archaeology, geology, or ichthyosaurus. The search is ongoing and the data is yet incomplete. You can take some of the data that is known and apply it to your assumption/speculation, but your a/s may set you in the wrong direction and you will have to start all over again.
The Bible stories are like that, and so are the sciences. The Bible is still inconclusive but is regarded as fake by people like you. As I had been referring to Genesis, not Noah per se, I can't pretend to abandon Genesis to depend entirely on man evolving from Mother Ape
Otto_Szucks
1.3 / 5 (16) May 23, 2016
(cont'd)
As much as I would enjoy the assumed leverage of being right all the time, I understand that there is too much ambiguity in what our senses tell us is correct, but may actually be the opposite of what we thought or had hoped for. IF the Bible, particularly Genesis were a lie and never happened, then the truth will be known unequivocally at the end of one's mortal existence. But the belief in God the Creator, Holy Angels, and certain occurrences in history is of no consequence to those who lack the beliefs, and I am almost certain they fervently hope that their un - or - disbelief, IS as they believe. Regarding something to be untrue without all data wrt to that something being available does not make sense. If it is your priority and preference to declare something untrue without all the facts of the matter, that is strictly your call.
WRT to Sclerocormus parviceps, it may have been your ancient ancestor also. Do you accept that? If not, why not?
richardwenzel987
4.7 / 5 (14) May 23, 2016
There's a difference between fake and unsophisticated, or naïve. Ancient chordates are indeed our ancestors. But the evolutionary tree of life has branched many times over the millennia. I don't understand why you ignore all of the other creation myths out there. There are many cultures and many myths. If the details of a particular believe are mistaken, in reference to results given by careful observation and in some cases experiment, it's usually obvious. The overwhelming preponderance of evidence today is on the side of an ancient universe, an ancient earth, and evolutionary processes. Any creation account not consistent with the evidence provided by geology, astronomy, cosmology, genetics, biochemistry, etc. is in serious need of re-thinking. In fact, fundamentalism today looks downright insane.
Otto_Szucks
1.5 / 5 (14) May 23, 2016
From reading Genesis early on, I was able to recognize that there were two Genesis - separated by about a billion years or less. I was horrified to find out in those days that Christians had decided that the Earth, Sun and other stars, and the Universe itself was only 6000 - 7000 years old. The idea is ridiculous, not only b/c of archaeological, geological & astronomical evidences, but b/c I saw that evolution as a process of cell adaptation was necessary and correct. Organized religionists have a problem digesting evolutionary progress of life forms.
In my former nick, I had already explained what I had discovered in Genesis wrt creation AND evolution. One cannot be without the other.
This is why I am not a religionist in the strict sense of the word.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (13) May 23, 2016
But perhaps there was another earlier "big flood", caused by the global warming/climate change that melted the polar ice in addition to heavy and prolonged rains. Heat from underwater volcanic eruptions could have killed off massive sea life, including ichthyosaurs.
This may all have occurred to make way for a "different" type of life form - mankind, as well as the beasts.

A fairly safe bet that the Earth has "flooded" numerous times over the past 500 million years, someplace or another, and for a number of reasons.
She's a pretty dynamic lady, our planet...
richardwenzel987
4.7 / 5 (14) May 23, 2016
Catholics made peace with science, in the main, a long time ago. Their theologians tend to be intellectuals, and Jesuits are sometimes very sophisticated and have a good grasp of the sciences. They adapted, and it was a wise move. They were smart enough to see that literalism simply does not work. Of course, most of the fundie literalists will tell you to your face that Catholics and others like them are on a hell bound train. If you want to go to heaven you'd better have a lobotomy...
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (13) May 23, 2016
From reading Genesis early on, I was able to recognize that there were two Genesis - separated by about a billion years or less.

How?
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (13) May 24, 2016
From reading Genesis early on, I was able to recognize that there were two Genesis - separated by about a billion years or less.

How?
- jsdark

By carefully picking it apart with the use of logic, reason, and "critical thinking" to glean the true meanings of the writings in each chapter and verse. The authors of Genesis were told what to write and they wrote down what they heard from their source, but did it in such a way that only a select few would understand what had really happened. There was no guile in it. The authors were not heavily intellectual. They were learned but simple men who were trusted with the information.
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (12) May 24, 2016
But perhaps there was another earlier "big flood", caused by the global warming/climate change that melted the polar ice in addition to heavy and prolonged rains. Heat from underwater volcanic eruptions could have killed off massive sea life, including ichthyosaurs.
This may all have occurred to make way for a "different" type of life form - mankind, as well as the beasts.

A fairly safe bet that the Earth has "flooded" numerous times over the past 500 million years, someplace or another, and for a number of reasons.
She's a pretty dynamic lady, our planet...
- WhydG
That would be correct. Freeze and thaw over and over. But the human factor only seems to have come into play after the lady had settled down enough to be far less dangerous to human, animal and plant growth and survival. And it seems that the time of ichthyosaurs, dinosaurs, etc. was allowed to progress, but they were found to be of less value due to their size and characteristics.
(cont'd)
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (12) May 24, 2016
(cont'd)
IOW, the rise of such animals was experimental to see who would be best qualified to rule the planet. None of them were, so they were scheduled for extinction. Nature itself seeks out the best, strongest, most virile and most intelligent, according to their characteristics and ease of maintenance and upkeep. Everything else eventually destroys itself with whatever means. AFAWK, man is the only mortal that is able to adapt to almost every situation and is intelligent. The (almost) perfect creation to rule the planet.
However, man couldn't rule anything if the dinosaurs and other meat eaters still existed and walked the Earth. So, they were all marked for extinction unless they were small enough to not compete with man. The great dying took place before the advent of Homo sapiens sapiens and Neanderthalensis. There again, Neanderthals were competition, so they were absorbed into the "race".
Garrote
3.2 / 5 (9) May 24, 2016
I had some serious comments but I refuse to in the presence of that running abscess, OS. If the rest of you could grow up and stop speaking to him I'll reconsider.

Stop whining about the ridiculous trolling/cranking here when you come here to argue with the little toadies. The comments have become a joke, no? Well, so have you if you bother to "debate" mindless parrots that have the same script to read on EVERY thread.
AGreatWhopper
2.5 / 5 (10) May 24, 2016
richardwenzel9875 /5 (8) 10 hours ago
Catholics made peace with science, in the main, a long time ago.


Oh, then they're consciously promoting environmental terrorism, then? How feckless is it to say "AGW is real and it's your Christian duty to deal with it", but not allow any form of birth control? Nothing reduces footprint like reducing feet on the ground. It's still cannon law that if a guy comes home drunk and wants to screw his wife unprotected that she will burn in hell if she refuses him.

Made peace with science? As long as it's university stuff. Minimal standards of social decency? Not so much.
SciTechdude
5 / 5 (6) May 24, 2016
Every time, article about science, reasoning laid out, along come 3 religious nutjobs who want to try to equate something they believe or made up off the top of their head, same thing either way, to some sort of timeline of earths development. I'll give you a hint, you're wrong. Doesn't matter what religion you are, you're statistically wrong just based on the number of religions in existence, if there even was a god(s)ess. Lets keep non-scientific babble out of the big boys group here eh?
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (8) May 24, 2016
OS,
You anthropomorphise the whole of Earth's history as if humans are the ultimate goal.
Personally, I wouldn't mind being a dolphin or a whale.
However - that's not how the Universe works...
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (8) May 24, 2016
OS,
You anthropomorphise the whole of Earth's history as if humans are the ultimate goal.
Personally, I wouldn't mind being a dolphin or a whale.
However - that's not how the Universe works...
- WhydG
As I said earlier in answer to your post, "But the human factor only seems to have come into play after the lady had settled down enough to be far less dangerous to human, animal and plant growth and survival. And it seems that the time of ichthyosaurs, dinosaurs, etc. was allowed to progress, but they were found to be of less value due to their size and characteristics.

Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (8) May 24, 2016
@WhydG
And. . . . .
"the rise of such animals was experimental to see who would be best qualified to rule the planet. None of them were, so they were scheduled for extinction. Nature itself seeks out the best, strongest, most virile and most intelligent, according to their characteristics and ease of maintenance and upkeep. Everything else eventually destroys itself with whatever means. AFAWK, man is the only mortal that is able to adapt to almost every situation and is intelligent. The (almost) perfect creation to rule the planet."

I have said these things already, not as a religionist, but because in this flesh I am mortal and human. I also have an affinity with other humans, at least the ones who display intelligence.
You can state your preference to be a whale or dolphin (would that be the fish dolphin, or the porpoise dolphin?) - but as for me, I would prefer to SWIM with the (porpoise) dolphins. They are quite intelligent in their own way.
Notice what I said about Nature?
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (7) May 24, 2016
@WhydG
And. . . . .
"the rise of such animals was experimental to see who would be best qualified to rule the planet. None of them were, so they were scheduled for extinction.

The game ain't over by a long shot...
Nature itself seeks out the best, strongest, most virile and most intelligent, according to their characteristics and ease of maintenance and upkeep. Everything else eventually destroys itself with whatever means. AFAWK, man is the only mortal that is able to adapt to almost every situation and is intelligent.

We've been - lucky...
The (almost) perfect creation to rule the planet."

hmm... Rat's and insects fit that profile, too... maybe even more than humans...
(They've been a lot less destructive to the environment)

BongThePuffin
May 25, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (7) May 25, 2016
Great that the ichtyosaur quick appearance (and disappearance) now has predictions from their environment.

The usual religious immoral bullshit, parading around a known myth. And claiming that it cover geological deep time when it has *two different myths (different time ordering)* so fails miserably anyway. Pitiful!

Added dumbosity by quoting directly from the myths as if outsiders would be interested in their magical incantations.

Finally, there are 100s of 1000s of differing religious magical incantations anyway, so why theirs?
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4.5 / 5 (8) May 25, 2016
@OS: "Why the discrepancy"?

No discrepancy with the biology. When a clade finds a new environment where it can occupy ecological niches on a massive scales it diversifies rapidly. C.f. birds and mammals as the non-avian dinosaurs disappeared, Similarly, when an established clade is threatened by environmental change it may go extinct as the previous niches disappears. C.f. the disappearance of the non-avian dinosaurs.

"Science is, itself, based largely on speculation AND assumption".

No, it isn't. Some use the shorthand of "assumption" (but never 'speculation') to mean particular constraints that are tested with the new observation/hypothesis/theory. I find it imprecise, a relic from the time when "natural theology" tried to claim science is a process of assumption and iteration to falsely imply that it is imprecise and ever changing.

[tbctd]
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (7) May 25, 2016
[ctd]

Which it is not, the competition process converges observably, which is why we completely know the laws underlying everyday physics. [ http://blogs.disc...erstood/ ] Science is based on observation, _including testing the observational constraints with the observation_ (so no 'assumptions'), and competition between observations, hypotheses, theories, scientists, ... everything.

Obviously the 19th century "natural theology" you refer to is a false description of science, besides being, you know, _theology_. 'I think I saw a theology crawling over my science.' Eeeck, burn it with fire!
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) May 28, 2016
The Aten works in mysterious ways.
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (2) May 28, 2016
The Aten works in mysterious ways.
- gkam
Ain't that a fact!!
Torbjorn contradicted himself, and never noticed. Like the Energizer bunny - he just keeps going and going and...
Yup...when yer right, yer right...even when wrong.

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