Evolution 2.0

Laura

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I'm about 20 pages away from finishing this really marvelous book. Has anybody else read it?

The blurb on amazon says:

When Charles Darwin wrote "Origin of Species," cells were considered gobs of goo.
But today we know NASA astronaut Scott Kelly's body altered its own gene expressions in just one year (!) when he traveled to space and back. His body executed a direct evolutionary response to the rigors of the International Space Station.

Such new discoveries demonstrate how obsolete Neo-Darwinian ideas about random mutation were. New knowledge was resisted for decades. Why? Because it overturned entrenched norms, popular beliefs, accepted paradigms.

The old-school Darwinism of yesteryear is dead on arrival. It has been replaced with a new synthesis. If you've been dissatisfied with the choice between dogmatic creationism and meaningless Darwinism, you'll be reassured to find there is a third way.

Evolution 2.0 pinpoints the central mystery of biology, offering a $5 million technology prize at naturalcode.org to the first person who can solve it - staffed by judges from Harvard, Oxford, and MIT.

Evolution 2.0 is the first book written in plain English that correctly explains how evolution works. Cells posses an evolutionary "Swiss Army Knife" toolkit with five blades.

Evolution isn't random events. It's RESPONSE to random events. Evolution 2.0 proves that, while evolution is not a hoax, neither is it random nor accidental. Changes are targeted, adaptive, and aware. You'll discover:

  • How organisms re-engineer their genetic destiny in real time
  • Amazing systems living things use to re-design themselves
  • Every cell is armed with machinery for editing its own DNA
  • The five amazing tools organisms use to alter their genetics
  • 70 years of scientific discoveries, of which the public has heard virtually nothing!

    Perry Marshall, as an engineer, rejected the concept of organisms "accidentally" evolving. But then an epiphany, that DNA is code, much like data in our digital age, sparked a 10-year journey of in-depth research into 70 years of under-reported evolutionary science. This led to a new understanding of evolution, an evolution 2.0 that not only furthers technology and medicine, but fuels our sense of wonder at life itself.

    This book will open your eyes and transform your thinking about evolution and spirituality. You'll gain a deeper appreciation for our place in the universe. You'll gain a new appreciation for the urgency of these questions as we plunge into this brave new world of genetic engineering.
But the book is really so much more than the blurb suggests.

Hopefully, others will read it and we can talk about some of these ideas!
 

Approaching Infinity

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But the book is really so much more than the blurb suggests.

Hopefully, others will read it and we can talk about some of these ideas!
Haven't read it, but it sounds interesting. Similar to some of Shiller's 5th Option ideas. Systems engineers seem to have a better intuitive grasp of evolution all around!

I just started Reich's book, and this little bit jumped out at me:

Genetic changes in this scenario are not a creative force abruptly enabling modern human behavior, but instead are responsive to nongenetic pressures imposed from the outside. ... The mutations necessary to facilitate modern human behavior were already in place, and many alternative combinations of these mutations could have increased in frequency together due to natural selection in response to changing needs imposed by the development of conceptual language or new environmental conditions. (p. 21)
 

Martina

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Is this a new book? Because if somebody already won a $5 million, we should read the winners book:-). Just kidding. It sounds interesting.
 

Laura

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Here is a solipsistic/snarky review of Marshall's book: Our DNA as Proof for God's Existence?, Review of Perry Marshall's "Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design", Frank Visser Here's a crucial paragraph from this nonsensical diatribe:

"God, however, can also be seen as a Programmer. Evolution 2.0 by online marketing guru Perry Marshall is a book that claims to break the deadlock between neo-Darwinism and creationism. Marshall started out as a Young Earth creationist, believing that the Earth was only a few thousand years old, but evolved into an Old Earth creationist, with a deep interest in science. His technical background made him approach the field from the perspective of information technology. His God can therefore be seen as an Engineer or even a Programmer. His main claim is that, since DNA is "real" code, and nature doesn't created codes, it must have been designed. He also claims that "cells are intelligent", so they "know" what to do when attacked from outside by bacteria or other negative influences. This approach is primarily fostered by James A. Shapiro, author of the highly controversial Evolution: A View from the 21st Century (2011). In terms of explanatory value, this concept doesn't really help. We might as well say: "Human beings are intelligent because they have the power of thought". Of course, we always want to know how these processes of "natural genetic engineering" exactly work—and have evolved."

Notice what I have put in bold. Those things are EXACTLY the point of Marshall's book: the fact that DNA IS A CODE and that cells ARE INTELLIGENT and NOBODY HAS THE ANSWER TO WHY THAT IS.

So, it is like this guy criticizing the book for not giving the answer that the book says there IS NO ANSWER TO except to postulate a CODER. That is the inference and the implication.

The critic - who is an IDIOT in my opinion - does, however, give the list of important scientific findings about what DNA can and does do and how evolution very likely proceeds.
  1. Transposition - a mutation in which a chromosomal segment is transferred to a new position on the same or another chromosome. Building on Barbara McClintock's work on genetic changes in maize, for which she received the Nobel Prize in 1983, Marshall claims mutations are not (always) random, but a case of "natural genetic engineering" (a term used by her collaborator James Shapiro).
  2. Horizontal gene transfer - the movement of genetic material between unicellular and/or multicellular organisms other than via vertical transmission. Cells, both of bacteria and of complex organisms, can exchange DNA material with other cells, which fundamentally changes our idea of the Tree of Life. Carl Woese, who discovered the archaea class of bacteria, saw this as the dominant mode of evolution for single-cell organisms.
  3. Epigenetics - the study of stably heritable traits (or "phenotypes") that cannot be explained by changes in DNA sequence. Contrary to orthodox theory cells can change their DNA by turning on or off their genes. Environmental pressures cause these changes. It turns out that (some of) these genetic changes can be passed on to offspring, producing different cell types in fetal development. (Most genes in a cell are turned off).
  4. Symbiogenesis - an evolutionary theory of the origin of eukaryotic cells from prokaryotic organisms. Largely due to the work of Lynn Margulis it is now common knowledge that the mitochondria and chlorophyll in animals and plants were free-living bacteria in the dim past before they got "swallowed up" (but not digested) by one-celled amoebas. Thus the animal, plant and fungal kingdoms have become possible because of bacteria.
  5. Genome Duplication - cells and organisms are those containing more than two paired (homologous) sets of chromosomes. Japanese geneticist Susumu Ohno was the first to point out that genome duplications, sometimes followed by another duplication, caused early vertebrates to grow more complex. These duplications fuelled sudden, radical transformations of body plans, giving rise to new species.
  6. Transduction - when our genome was sequenced, not only was it discovered to be shockingly simple (only 10 times more complex than bacteria), but large fragments of viral DNA were discovered that turned out to be vital for the evolution of all organisms. Marshall bases himself here on the work of Frank Ryan, author of the book Virolution (2009).
A close and careful reading of Marshall's book is in order. I've read tons of this stuff over the past year and he's right, what he has presented in the list is downplayed or entirely ignored by all the evolutionary biologists and genetics researchers who try to tell us that human beings evolved "Out of Africa" by a process of random mutation and survival of the fittest. That dog don't hunt as much of the more recent research shows, including the books by Chris Stringer and David Reich.

 

Gaby

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I think that sounds completely fascinating! After reading "How to Make Sense of Genes", I was left with the impression that the guy just pulled a fast one by giving such a short-minded solution to such a complex "problem" as to how the whole thing worked. Like the point in the book "The 5th Option": explaining evolution in terms of astrobiology (a virus from outer space) just transfers the problem of evolution out of Earth and into another planet, but how did the life start in the other planet too?

Looking forward to learning from this book!
 

Laura

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Here they say that carbon may be evidence that there was life on earth very early.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/10/scientists-may-have-found-earliest-evidence-life-earth

Scientists may have found the earliest evidence of life on Earth
By Julia RosenOct. 19, 2015 , 3:15 PM


When did life on Earth begin? Scientists have dug down through the geologic record, and the deeper they look, the more it seems that biology appeared early in our planet’s 4.5-billion-year history. So far, geologists have uncovered possible traces of life as far back as 3.8 billion years. Now, a controversial new study presents potential evidence that life arose 300 million years before that, during the mysterious period following Earth’s formation.

The clues lie hidden in microscopic flecks of graphite—a carbon mineral—trapped inside a single large crystal of zircon. Zircons grow in magmas, often incorporating other minerals into their crystal structures of silicon, oxygen, and zirconium. And although they barely span the width of a human hair, zircons are nearly indestructible. They can outlast the rocks in which they initially formed, enduring multiple cycles of erosion and deposition.

In fact, although the oldest rocks on Earth date back only 4 billion years, researchers have found zircons up to 4.4 billion years old. These crystals provide a rare glimpse into the first chapter of Earth’s history, known as the Hadean eon. “They are pretty much our only physical samples of what was going on on the Earth before 4 billion years ago,” says Elizabeth Bell, a geochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and lead author of the new study, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the study, Bell and her colleagues examined zircons from the Jack Hills in Western Australia, a site that has yielded more Hadean samples than anywhere else on Earth, searching for inclusions of carbon minerals like diamonds and graphite. The mere presence of these minerals does not prove biology existed when the zircons formed, but it does provide the opportunity to look for chemical signs of life. The team eventually found small bits of potentially undisturbed graphite in one 4.1 billion-year-old crystal. The graphite has a low ratio of heavy to light carbon atoms—called isotopes—consistent with the isotopic signature of organic matter. “On Earth today, if you were looking at this carbon, you would say it was biogenic,” Bell says. “Of course, that’s more controversial for the Hadean.”


The authors list several nonbiological processes that could explain their findings, but they favor the idea that the graphite started out as organic matter in sediments that got dragged into the Earth’s mantle during the collision of tectonic plates. As the sediments melted to form magma, the elevated temperatures and pressures transformed the carbon into graphite, which eventually found its way into a zircon crystal.


If this story is true, and life existed 4.1 billion years ago, Bell says that the new results would corroborate growing evidence of a more hospitable early Earth than scientists once imagined. “The traditional view of the Earth’s first few hundred million years was that this was a sterile, lifeless, hot planet that was constantly being bombarded by meteorites,” she says. But partly thanks to the wealth of information revealed by the Jack Hills zircons in recent years, scientists have come to see the early Earth as much milder and more amenable to life.


“We know there was liquid water,” says Mark van Zuilen, a geomicrobiologist at the Paris Institute of Earth Physics. “There’s nothing that holds us back from assuming life was there.” However, van Zuilen and others say they’re not sure the new study provides compelling evidence that it was.


Some of this circumspection has roots in recent history. In 2008, researchers announced that diamond-graphite inclusions in 4.3-billion-year-old zircons had potentially biological signatures, inspiring Bell and her team to start looking through UCLA’s own collection of Jack Hills crystals. But subsequent analysis showed the 2008 inclusions came from lab contamination, not early Earth. In the new study, the researchers took measures to prevent similar problems.


“That one negative experience doesn’t mean nobody should try again,” says John Eiler, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “But let’s just say, I’m cautious.” For one, he says, researchers need to settle some important debates, like whether the inclusions in Hadean zircons truly preserve original material, or if they’ve been altered, for example, during a later bout of metamorphism. He also questions whether organic matter can survive in magma chambers long enough to form graphite, casting doubt on the proposed mechanism.


Those issues aside, most scientists—including the authors—agree that the data do not yet exclude nonbiological explanations. Many abiotic processes can produce carbon with isotopic signatures similar to organic matter. For instance, the graphite could contain carbon from certain kinds of meteorites, which have light isotopic compositions. Alternatively, some invoke chemical processes, like the so-called Fischer-Tropsch reactions, in which carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen react with a catalyst like iron to form methane and other hydrocarbons. Such reactions probably occurred near hydrothermal vents in the Hadean, van Zuilen says, and can impart isotopic signatures that are indistinguishable from biological materials.


One way to settle the question that doesn’t rely on isotopes involves studying Mars, which, unlike Earth, still has rocks older than 4 billion years on its surface. “If we can find evidence for the existence of life on Mars at that time, then it will be easier to argue the case that it was also present on Earth,” says Alexander Nemchin, a geochemist at Curtin University in Bentley, Australia, and lead author of the 2008 study on diamond inclusions.


For now, scientists must make do with zircons, the only materials that preserve any record—however cryptic—of the Hadean eon. Bell acknowledges the need to test her team’s hypothesis on additional samples. She says researchers must make a concerted effort to find more Hadean carbon in Jack Hills zircons and see if it too has potentially biological origins. “Hopefully we didn’t just chance on the one freak zircon that had graphite in it,” she says. “Hopefully there is actually a fair amount of it.”
Here they are talking about actual fossilized microbes:

Earliest life on Earth: scientists find evidence in WA rock sediments
Researchers from Australia and the US discover signs of 'complex microbial ecosystems' dated at 3.5bn years old

Oliver Milman
@olliemilman
Wed 13 Nov 2013 04.46 GMT Last modified on Wed 22 Feb 2017 18.43 GMT





The remote site where scientists have discovered fossilised bacteria. Photograph: David Wacey/AAP

Researchers say they have fresh evidence of the oldest life on Earth, with fossilised bacteria dating more than 3.5bn years.

Evidence of what could be the earliest forms of life on Earth has been unearthed in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Researchers from Australia and the US have discovered signs of “complex microbial ecosystems” within rock sediments dated at 3.5bn years old.

The microbes were found in a body of rock called the Dresser Formation, west of Marble Bar in WA.

Professor David Wacey, researcher at the University of Western Australia, told Guardian Australia the discovery “pushes back evidence of life on Earth by a few more million years”.

“The Pilbara has some of the best, least deformed rocks on Earth; there aren’t many rocks older than there,” he said. “I would say this is the most robust evidence of the oldest life on Earth. My team has found evidence dated at 3.45bn years in the past, so we have gone further back by a few million years.”

Wacey said slivers of rock were analysed by the team, which found evidence of groups of microbes within the sediment.

“Microbes and bacteria like to live in communities. Think about the bacteria in your stomach, for example,” he said. “These microbes lived in layers that required different chemical gradients to survive. So bacteria that liked light would be towards the top while those that didn’t were towards the bottom.”

Earth was a far different place 3.5bn years ago, with temperatures and sea levels much higher than today. Bacterial communities, such as that found in the Pilbara, were the most advanced form of life for several billion years before more complex life forms began to develop.

“Bacteria ruled the world back then, it would’ve been a very smelly world indeed,” said Wacey. “It would’ve been pretty hostile for us. There was essentially no oxygen, a lot of CO2 and methane and much warmer oceans.

“Most of the world was covered by water, with just a bit of land sticking out here and there. There was a lot of volcanic activity and plenty of sulphur in the air. Until 2.5bn years ago, there was only the start of the evolution that would see cells with nucleoli, then evolving to multi-cell organisms such as animals and us.”

Wacey said that the search for slightly older organisms would go on, potentially in ancient rock formations in South Africa and Greenland, but the Pilbara discovery could have further ramifications in the quest to learn more about the solar system.

“These kinds of ecosystems could be viewed by a rover, such as the one that visited Mars,” Wacey said. “We wouldn’t know the age, of course, as we couldn’t date them. But we would know that there was life at some point on another planet, which would be pretty exciting.”
Here's the general timeline before the above discoveries, though nothing much really changes:

http://subscription.newscientist.com/packages/newscientist-2018-Q2.php?promCode=11372&packageCodes=TPA&offerCode=Q&utm_medium=PAC&utm_source=NSNS&utm_campaign=Q2_2018_Ticker
Timeline: The evolution of life

14 July 2009
Timeline: The evolution of life

By Michael Marshall


There are all sorts of ways to reconstruct the history of life on Earth. Pinning down when specific events occurred is often tricky, though. For this, biologists depend mainly on dating the rocks in which fossils are found, and by looking at the “molecular clocks” in the DNA of living organisms.

There are problems with each of these methods. The fossil record is like a movie with most of the frames cut out. Because it is so incomplete, it can be difficult to establish exactly when particular evolutionary changes happened.

Modern genetics allows scientists to measure how different species are from each other at a molecular level, and thus to estimate how much time has passed since a single lineage split into different species. Confounding factors rack up for species that are very distantly related, making the earlier dates more uncertain.

These difficulties mean that the dates in the timeline should be taken as approximate. As a general rule, they become more uncertain the further back along the geological timescale we look. Dates that are very uncertain are marked with a question mark.


3.8 billion years ago?
This is our current “best guess” for the beginning of life on Earth. It is distinctly possible that this date will change as more evidence comes to light. The first life may have developed in undersea alkaline vents, and was probably based on RNA rather than DNA.

At some point far back in time, a common ancestor gave rise to two main groups of life: bacteria and archaea.
How this happened, when, and in what order the different groups split, is still uncertain.


3.5 billion years ago
The oldest fossils of single-celled organisms date from this time.

3.46 billion years ago
Some single-celled organisms may be feeding on methane by this time.

3.4 billion years ago
Rock formations in Western Australia, that some researchers claim are fossilised microbes, date from this period.

3 billion years ago
Viruses are present by this time, but they may be as old as life itself.

2.4 billion years ago
The “great oxidation event”. Supposedly, the poisonous waste produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria – oxygen – starts to build up in the atmosphere. Dissolved oxygen makes the iron in the oceans “rust” and sink to the seafloor, forming striking banded iron formations.
Recently, though, some researchers have challenged this idea. They think cyanobacteria only evolved later, and that other bacteria oxidised the iron in the absence of oxygen.

Yet others think that cyanobacteria began pumping out oxygen as early as 2.1 billion years ago, but that oxygen began to accumulate only due to some other factor, possibly a decline in methane-producing bacteria. Methane reacts with oxygen, removing it from the atmosphere, so fewer methane-belching bacteria would allow oxygen to build up.

2.3 billion years ago
Earth freezes over in what may have been the first “snowball Earth”, possibly as a result of a lack of volcanic activity. When the ice eventually melts, it indirectly leads to more oxygen being released into the atmosphere.

2.15 billion years ago
First undisputed fossil evidence of cyanobacteria, and of photosynthesis: the ability to take in sunlight and carbon dioxide, and obtain energy, releasing oxygen as a by-product.

There is some evidence for an earlier date for the beginning of photosynthesis, but it has been called into question.

2 billion years ago?
Eukaryotic cells – cells with internal “organs” (known as organelles) – come into being. One key organelle is the nucleus: the control centre of the cell, in which the genes are stored in the form of DNA.

Eukaryotic cells evolved when one simple cell engulfed another, and the two lived together, more or less amicably – an example of “endosymbiosis”. The engulfed bacteria eventually become mitochondria, which provide eukaryotic cells with energy. The last common ancestor of all eukaryotic cells had mitochondria – and had also developed sexual reproduction.

Later, eukaryotic cells engulfed photosynthetic bacteria and formed a symbiotic relationship with them. The engulfed bacteria evolved into chloroplasts: the organelles that give green plants their colour and allow them to extract energy from sunlight.

Different lineages of eukaryotic cells acquired chloroplasts in this way on at least three separate occasions, and one of the resulting cell lines went on to evolve into all green algae and green plants.

1.5 billion years ago?
The eukaryotes divide into three groups: the ancestors of modern plants, fungi and animals split into separate lineages, and evolve separately. We do not know in what order the three groups broke with each other. At this time they were probably all still single-celled organisms.

900 million years ago?
The first multicellular life develops around this time.
It is unclear exactly how or why this happens, but one possibility is that single-celled organisms go through a stage similar to that of modern choanoflagellates: single-celled creatures that sometimes form colonies consisting of many individuals. Of all the single-celled organisms known to exist, choanoflagellates are the most closely related to multicellular animals, lending support to this theory.

800 million years ago
The early multicellular animals undergo their first splits. First they divide into, essentially, the sponges and everything else – the latter being more formally known as the Eumetazoa.

Around 20 million years later, a small group called the placozoa breaks away from the rest of the Eumetazoa. Placozoa are thin plate-like creatures about 1 millimetre across, and consist of only three layers of cells. It has been suggested that they may actually be the last common ancestor of all the animals.

770 million years ago
The planet freezes over again in another “snowball Earth“.

730 million years ago
The comb jellies (ctenophores) split from the other multicellular animals. Like the cnidarians that will soon follow, they rely on water flowing through their body cavities to acquire oxygen and food.

680 million years ago
The ancestor of cnidarians (jellyfish and their relatives) breaks away from the other animals – though there is as yet no fossil evidence of what it looks like.

630 million years ago
Around this time, some animals evolve bilateral symmetry for the first time: that is, they now have a defined top and bottom, as well as a front and back.

Little is known about how this happened. However, small worms called Acoela may be the closest surviving relatives of the first ever bilateral animal. It seems likely that the first bilateral animal was a kind of worm. Vernanimalcula guizhouena, which dates from around 600 million years ago, may be the earliest bilateral animal found in the fossil record.

590 million years ago
The Bilateria, those animals with bilateral symmetry, undergo a profound evolutionary split. They divide into the protostomes and deuterostomes.

The deuterostomes eventually include all the vertebrates, plus an outlier group called the Ambulacraria. The protostomes become all the arthropods (insects, spiders, crabs, shrimp and so forth), various types of worm, and the microscopic rotifers.

Neither may seem like an obvious “group”, but in fact the two can be distinguished by the way their embryos develop. The first hole that the embryo acquires, the blastopore, forms the anus in deuterostomes, but in protostomes it forms the mouth.

580 million years ago
The earliest known fossils of cnidarians, the group that includes jellyfish, sea anemones and corals, date to around this time – though the fossil evidence has been disputed.

575 million years ago
Strange life forms known as the Ediacarans appear around this time and persist for about 33 million years.

570 million years ago
A small group breaks away from the main group of deuterostomes, known as the Ambulacraria. This group eventually becomes the echinoderms (starfish, brittle stars and their relatives) and two worm-like families called the hemichordates and Xenoturbellida.
Another echinoderm, the sea lily, is thought to be the “missing link” between vertebrates (animals with backbones) and invertebrates (animals without backbones), a split that occurred around this time.

565 million years ago
Fossilised animal trails suggest that some animals are moving under their own power.

540 million years ago
As the first chordates – animals that have a backbone, or at least a primitive version of it – emerge among the deuterostomes, a surprising cousin branches off.

The sea squirts (tunicates) begin their history as tadpole-like chordates, but metamorphose partway through their lives into bottom-dwelling filter feeders that look rather like a bag of seawater anchored to a rock. Their larvae still look like tadpoles today, revealing their close relationship to backboned animals.

535 million years ago
The Cambrian explosion begins, with many new body layouts appearing on the scene – though the seeming rapidity of the appearance of new life forms may simply be an illusion caused by a lack of older fossils.

530 million years ago
The first true vertebrate – an animal with a backbone – appears. It probably evolves from a jawless fish that has a notochord, a stiff rod of cartilage, instead of a true backbone. The first vertebrate is probably quite like a lamprey, hagfish or lancelet.

Around the same time, the first clear fossils of trilobites appear. These invertebrates, which look like oversized woodlice and grow to 70 centimetres in length, proliferate in the oceans for the next 200 million years.

520 million years ago
Conodonts, another contender for the title of “earliest vertebrate“, appear. They probably look like eels.

500 million years ago
Fossil evidence shows that animals were exploring the land at this time. The first animals to do so were probably euthycarcinoids – thought to be the missing link between insects and crustaceans. Nectocaris pteryx, thought to be the oldest known ancestor of the cephalopods – the group that includes squid – lives around this time.

489 million years ago
The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event begins, leading to a great increase in diversity. Within each of the major groups of animals and plants, many new varieties appear.

465 million years ago
Plants begin colonising the land.

460 million years ago
Fish split into two major groups: the bony fish and cartilaginous fish. The cartilaginous fish, as the name implies, have skeletons made of cartilage rather than the harder bone. They eventually include all the sharks, skates and rays.

440 million years ago
The bony fish split into their two major groups: the lobe-finned fish with bones in their fleshy fins, and the ray-finned fish. The lobe-finned fish eventually give rise to amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The ray-finned fish thrive, and give rise to most fish species living today.

The common ancestor of lobe-finned and ray-finned fish probably has simple sacs that function as primitive lungs, allowing it to gulp air when oxygen levels in the water fall too low. In ray-finned fish, these sacs evolve into the swim bladder, which is used for controlling buoyancy.

425 million years ago
The coelacanth, one of the most famous “living fossils” – species that have apparently not changed for millions of years – splits from the rest of the lobe-finned fish.

417 million years ago
Lungfish, another legendary living fossil, follow the coelacanth by splitting from the other lobe-finned fish. Although they are unambiguously fish, complete with gills, lungfish have a pair of relatively sophisticated lungs, which are divided into numerous smaller air sacs to increase their surface area. These allow them to breathe out of water and thus to survive when the ponds they live in dry out.

400 million years ago
The oldest known insect lives around this time. Some plants evolve woody stems.

397 million years ago
The first four-legged animals, or tetrapods, evolve from intermediate species such as Tiktaalik, probably in shallow freshwater habitats.
The tetrapods go on to conquer the land, and give rise to all amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

385 million years ago
The oldest fossilised tree dates from this period.

375 million years ago
Tiktaalik, an intermediate between fish and four-legged land animals, lives around this time. The fleshy fins of its lungfish ancestors are evolving into limbs.

340 million years ago
The first major split occurs in the tetrapods, with the amphibians branching off from the others.

310 million years ago
Within the remaining tetrapods, the sauropsids and synapsids split from one another. The sauropsids include all the modern reptiles, plus the dinosaurs and birds. The first synapsids are also reptiles, but have distinctive jaws. They are sometimes called “mammal-like reptiles”, and eventually evolve into the mammals.

320 to 250 million years ago
The pelycosaurs, the first major group of synapsid animals, dominate the land. The most famous example is Dimetrodon, a large predatory “reptile” with a sail on its back. Despite appearances, Dimetrodon is not a dinosaur.

275 to 100 million years ago
The therapsids, close cousins of the pelycosaurs, evolve alongside them and eventually replace them. The therapsids survive until the early Cretaceous, 100 million years ago. Well before that, a group of them called the cynodonts develops dog-like teeth and eventually evolves into the first mammals.

250 million years ago
The Permian period ends with the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history, wiping out great swathes of species, including the last of the trilobites.

As the ecosystem recovers, it undergoes a fundamental shift. Whereas before the synapsids (first the pelycosaurs, then the therapsids) dominated, the sauropsids now take over – most famously, in the form of dinosaurs. The ancestors of mammals survive as small, nocturnal creatures.

In the oceans, the ammonites, cousins of the modern nautilus and octopus, evolve around this time. Several groups of reptiles colonise the seas, developing into the great marine reptiles of the dinosaur era.

210 million years ago
Bird-like footprints and a badly-preserved fossil called Protoavis suggest that some early dinosaurs are already evolving into birds at this time. This claim remains controversial.

200 million years ago
As the Triassic period comes to an end, another mass extinction strikes, paving the way for the dinosaurs to take over from their sauropsid cousins.

Around the same time, proto-mammals evolve warm-bloodedness – the ability to maintain their internal temperature, regardless of the external conditions.

180 million years ago
The first split occurs in the early mammal population. The monotremes, a group of mammals that lay eggs rather than giving birth to live young, break apart from the others. Few monotremes survive today: they include the duck-billed platypus and the echidnas.

168 million years ago
A half-feathered, flightless dinosaur called Epidexipteryx, which may be an early step on the road to birds, lives in China.

150 million years ago
Archaeopteryx, the famous “first bird”, lives in Europe.

140 million years ago
Around this time, placental mammals split from their cousins the marsupials. These mammals, like the modern kangaroo, that give birth when their young are still very small, but nourish them in a pouch for the first few weeks or months of their lives.
The majority of modern marsupials live in Australia, but they reach it by an extremely roundabout route. Arising in south-east Asia, they spread into north America (which was attached to Asia at the time), then to south America and Antarctica, before making the final journey to Australia about 50 million years ago.

131 million years ago
Eoconfuciusornis, a bird rather more advanced than Archaeopteryx, lives in China.

130 million years ago
The first flowering plants emerge, following a period of rapid evolution.

105-85 million years ago
The placental mammals split into their four major groups: the laurasiatheres (a hugely diverse group including all the hoofed mammals, whales, bats, and dogs), euarchontoglires (primates, rodents and others), Xenarthra (including anteaters and armadillos) and afrotheres (elephants, aardvarks and others). Quite how these splits occurred is unclear at present.

100 million years ago
The Cretaceous dinosaurs reach their peak in size. The giant sauropod Argentinosaurus, believed to be the largest land animal in Earth’s history, lives around this time.

93 million years ago
The oceans become starved of oxygen, possibly due to a huge underwater volcanic eruption. Twenty-seven per cent of marine invertebrates are wiped out.

75 million years ago
The ancestors of modern primates split from the ancestors of modern rodents and lagomorphs (rabbits, hares and pikas). The rodents go on to be astonishingly successful, eventually making up around 40 per cent of modern mammal species.

70 million years ago
Grasses evolve – though it will be several million years before the vast open grasslands appear.

65 million years ago
The Cretaceous-Tertiary (K/T) extinction wipes out a swathe of species, including all the giant reptiles: the dinosaurs, pterosaurs, ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. The ammonites are also wiped out. The extinction clears the way for the mammals, which go on to dominate the planet.

63 million years ago
The primates split into two groups, known as the haplorrhines (dry-nosed primates) and the strepsirrhines (wet-nosed primates). The strepsirrhines eventually become the modern lemurs and aye-ayes, while the haplorrhines develop into monkeys and apes – and humans.

58 million years ago
The tarsier, a primate with enormous eyes to help it see at night, splits from the rest of the haplorrhines: the first to do so.

55 million years ago
The Palaeocene/Eocene extinction. A sudden rise in greenhouse gases sends temperatures soaring and transforms the planet, wiping out many species in the depths of the sea – though sparing species in shallow seas and on land.

50 million years ago
Artiodactyls, which look like a cross between a wolf and a tapir, begin evolving into whales.

48 million years ago
Indohyus, another possible ancestor of whales and dolphins, lives in India.

47 million years ago
The famous fossilised primate known as “Ida” lives in northern Europe. Early whales called protocetids live in shallow seas, returning to land to give birth.

40 million years ago
New World monkeys become the first simians (higher primates) to diverge from the rest of the group, colonising South America.

25 million years ago
Apes split from the Old World monkeys.

18 million years ago
Gibbons become the first ape to split from the others.

14 million years ago
Orang-utans branch off from the other great apes, spreading across southern Asia while their cousins remain in Africa.

7 million years ago
Gorillas branch off from the other great apes.

6 million years ago
Humans diverge from their closest relatives; the chimpanzees and bonobos.
Shortly afterwards, hominins begin walking on two legs. See our interactive timeline of human evolution for the full story of how modern humans developed.

2 million years ago
A 700-kilogram rodent called Josephoartigasia monesi lives in South America. It is the largest rodent known to have lived, displacing the previous record holder: a giant guinea pig.
On the topic of RNA based early life, see here: First life: The search for the first replicator

It doesn't sound very likely; sounds more like desperation. Here's the main part:

When biologists first started to ponder how life arose, the question seemed baffling. In all organisms alive today, the hard work is done by proteins. Proteins can twist and fold into a wild diversity of shapes, so they can do just about anything, including acting as enzymes, substances that catalyse a huge range of chemical reactions. However, the information needed to make proteins is stored in DNA molecules. You can’t make new proteins without DNA, and you can’t make new DNA without proteins. So which came first, proteins or DNA?

The discovery in the 1960s that RNA could fold like a protein, albeit not into such complex structures, suggested an answer. If RNA could catalyse reactions as well as storing information, some RNA molecules might be capable of making more RNA molecules. And if that was the case, RNA replicators would have had no need for proteins. They could do everything themselves.

It was an appealing idea, but at the time it was complete speculation. No one had shown that RNA could catalyse reactions like protein enzymes. It was not until 1982, after decades of searching, that an RNA enzyme was finally discovered. Thomas Cech of the University of Colorado in Boulder found it in Tetrahymena thermophila, a bizarre single-celled animal with seven sexes (Science, vol 231, p 4737).

After that the floodgates opened. People discovered ever more RNA enzymes in living organisms and created new ones in their labs. RNA might be not be as good for storing information as DNA, being less stable, nor as versatile as proteins, but it was turning out to be a molecular jack of all trades. This was a huge boost to the idea that the first life consisted of RNA molecules that catalysed the production of more RNA molecules – “the RNA world”, as Harvard chemist Walter Gilbert dubbed it 25 years ago (Nature, vol 319, p 618).

These RNA replicators may even have had sex. The RNA enzyme Cech discovered did not just catalyse any old reaction. It was a short section of RNA that could cut itself out of a longer chain. Reversing the reaction would add RNA to chains, meaning RNA replicators might have been able to swap bits with other RNA molecules. This ability would greatly accelerate evolution, because innovations made by separate lineages of replicators could be brought together in one lineage.

Evolving replicators

For many biologists the clincher came in 2000, when the structure of the protein-making factories in cells was worked out. This work confirmed that nestling at the heart of these factories is an RNA enzyme – and if proteins are made by RNA, surely RNA must have come first.

Still, some issues remained. For one thing, it remained unclear whether RNA really was capable of replicating itself. Nowadays, DNA and RNA need the help of many proteins to copy themselves. If there ever was a self-replicator, it has long since disappeared. So biochemists set out to make one, taking random RNAs and evolving them for many generations to see what they came up with.

By 2001, this process had yielded an RNA enzyme called R18 that could stick 14 nucleotides – the building blocks of RNA and DNA – onto an existing RNA, using another RNA as a template (Science, vol 292, p 1319). Any self-replicating RNA, however, needs to build RNAs that are at least as long as itself – and R18 doesn’t come close. It is 189 nucleotides long, but the longest RNA it can make contains just 20.

A big advance came earlier this year, when Philipp Holliger of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues unveiled an RNA enzyme called tC19Z. It reliably copies RNA sequences up to 95 letters long, almost half as long as itself (Science, vol 332, p 209). To do this, tC19Z clamps onto the end of an RNA, attaches the correct nucleotide, then moves forward a step and adds another. “It still blows my mind that you can do something so complex with such a simple molecule,” Holliger says.

So biologists are getting tantalisingly close to creating an RNA molecule, or perhaps a set of molecules, capable of replicating itself. That leaves another sticking point: where did the energy to drive this activity come from? There must have been some kind of metabolic process going on – but RNA does not look up to the job of running a full-blown metabolism.

“There’s been a nagging issue of whether RNA can do all the chemistry,” says Adrian Ferré-D’Amaré of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. RNA has only a few chemically active “functional groups”, which limit it to catalysing just a few types of chemical reaction.

Functional groups are like tools – the more kinds you have, the more things you can do. Proteins have many more functional groups than RNAs. However, there is a way to make a single tool much more versatile: attach different bits to it, like those screwdrivers that come with interchangeable heads. The chemical equivalents are small helper molecules known as cofactors.

Proteins use cofactors to extend even further the range of reactions they can control. Without cofactors, life as we know it couldn’t exist, Ferré-D’Amaré says. And it turns out that RNA enzymes can use cofactors too.

In 2003, Hiroaki Suga, now at the University of Tokyo, Japan, created an RNA enzyme that could oxidise alcohol, with help from a cofactor called NAD+ which is used by many protein enzymes (Nature Structural Biology, vol 10, p 713). Months later, Ronald Breaker of Yale University found that a natural RNA enzyme, called glmS, also uses a cofactor.

Many bacteria use glmS, says Ferré-D’Amaré, so either it is ancient or RNA enzymes that use cofactors evolve easily. Either way, it looks as if RNA molecules would have been capable of carrying out the range of the reactions needed to produce energy.

So the evidence that there was once an RNA world is growing ever more convincing. Only a few dissenters remain. “The naysayers about the RNA world have lost a lot of ground,” says Donna Blackmond of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. But there is still one huge and obvious problem: where did the RNA come from in the first place?

RNA molecules are strings of nucleotides, which in turn are made of a sugar with a base and a phosphate attached. In living cells, numerous enzymes are involved in producing nucleotides and joining them together, but of course the primordial planet had no such enzymes. There was clay, though. In 1996, biochemist Leslie Orgel showed that when “activated” nucleotides – those with an extra bit tacked on to the phosphate – were added to a kind of volcanic clay, RNA molecules up to 55 nucleotides long formed (Nature, vol 381, p 59). With ordinary nucleotides the formation of large RNA molecules would be energetically unfavourable, but the activated ones provide the energy needed to drive the reaction.

This suggests that if there were plenty of activated nucleotides on the early Earth, large RNA molecules would form spontaneously. What’s more, experiments simulating conditions on the early Earth and on asteroids show that sugars, bases and phosphates would arise naturally too. It’s putting the nucleotides together that is the hard bit; there does not seem to be any way to join the components without specialised enzymes. Because of the shapes of the molecules, it is almost impossible for the sugar to join to a base, and even when it does happen, the combined molecule quickly breaks apart.

This apparently insurmountable difficulty led many biologists to suspect to RNA was not the first replicator after all. Many began exploring the possibility that the RNA world was preceded by a TNA world, or a PNA world, or perhaps an ANA world. These are all molecules similar to RNA but whose basic units are thought to have been much more likely to form spontaneously. The big problem with this idea is that if life did begin this way, no evidence of it remains. “You don’t see a smoking gun,” says Gerald Joyce, also of the Scripps Research Institute.

In the meantime John Sutherland, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, has been doggedly trying to solve the nucleotide problem. He realised that researchers might have been going about it the wrong way. “In each nucleotide, you see a sugar, a base and a phosphate group,” he says. “So you assume you need to make those building blocks first and then stick them together… and it doesn’t work.”

Instead he wondered whether simpler molecules might assemble into a nucleotide without ever becoming sugars or bases. In 2009, he proved it was possible. He took half a sugar and half a base, and stuck them together – forming the crucial sugar-base link that everyone had struggled with. Then he bolted on the rest of the sugar and base. Sutherland stuck on the phosphate last, though he found that it needed to be present in the mixture for the earlier reactions to work (Nature, vol 459, p 239).

Goldilocks chemistry

Sutherland was being deliberately messy by including the phosphate from the start, but it gave the best results. That’s encouraging: the primordial Earth was a messy place and it may have been ideal for making nucleotides. Sutherland now suspects there is a “Goldilocks chemistry” – not too simple, not too complex – that would produce many key compounds from the same melting pot.

“Sutherland had a real breakthrough,” Holliger says. “Everyone else was barking up the wrong tree.”

The issue isn’t entirely solved yet. RNA has four different nucleotides, and so far Sutherland has only produced two of them. However, he says he is “closing in” on the other two. If he succeeds, it will show that the spontaneous formation of an RNA replicator is not so improbable after all, and that the first replicator was most likely made of RNA.

Many questions remain, of course. Where did the first replicators arise? What was the first life like? How did the transition to DNA and proteins, and the development of the genetic code, occur? We may never know for sure but many promising avenues are being explored. Most biologists think there must have been something like a cell right from the start, to contain the replicator and keep its component parts together. That way, individuals could compete for resources and evolve in different ways.

Jack Szostak of Harvard University has shown that the same clay that produces RNA chains also encourages the formation of membrane-bound sacs rather like cells that enclose cells. He has grown “proto-cells” that can carry RNA and even divide without modern cellular machinery.

Another idea is that life began in alkaline hydrothermal vents on the sea floor. Not only are these vents laced with pores and bubbles, but they also provide the same kind of electrochemical gradient that drives energy production in cells to this day. Conditions may have been ideal for producing long RNA chains.

Holliger has a rather surprising idea: maybe it all happened in ice. At the time life began, the sun was 30 per cent dimmer than today. The planet would have frozen over if the atmosphere hadn’t been full of greenhouse gases, and there may well have been ice towards the oles.

Cold RNA lasts longer, and ice has many other benefits. When water laced with RNA and other chemicals is cooled, some of it freezes while the rest becomes a concentrated brine running around the ice crystals. “You get little pockets within the ice,” Holliger says. Interestingly, the R18 RNA enzyme works better in ice than at room temperature (Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1076).

Right now, there’s no way to choose between these options. No fossilised vestiges remain of the first replicators as far as we know. But we can try recreating the RNA world to demonstrate how it might have arisen. One day soon, Sutherland says, someone will fill a container with a mix of primordial chemicals, keep it under the right conditions, and watch life emerge. “That experiment will be done.”
They all sound pretty desperate and delusional to me. What's more, they are only proving that something was CREATED!!!!
 

Laura

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I think I should add that just because I think that this guy, Perry Marshall, has made a good case for "creation" of life at the fundamental level, that doesn't mean I buy into his religious schtick. Hyperdimensional interactions with our reality seem to be a fact, but religions are creations of human beings.
 

goyacobol

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This so interesting I need to keeping reading and reading.
I know that this specifically talking about the RNA enzyme but I wonder it it can be taken as a more general DNA reference. They have not mentioned an enzyme "related to carbon" but they seem to be getting nearer to finding how the enzymes might work with RNA.

By 2001, this process had yielded an RNA enzyme called R18 that could stick 14 nucleotides – the building blocks of RNA and DNA – onto an existing RNA, using another RNA as a template (Science, vol 292, p 1319). Any self-replicating RNA, however, needs to build RNAs that are at least as long as itself – and R18 doesn’t come close. It is 189 nucleotides long, but the longest RNA it can make contains just 20.

A big advance came earlier this year, when Philipp Holliger of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues unveiled an RNA enzyme called tC19Z. It reliably copies RNA sequences up to 95 letters long, almost half as long as itself (Science, vol 332, p 209). To do this, tC19Z clamps onto the end of an RNA, attaches the correct nucleotide, then moves forward a step and adds another. “It still blows my mind that you can do something so complex with such a simple molecule,” Holliger says.
I don't want to distract or get ahead of the schedule but I have been thinking about a lot of the clues the Cs have given and it just seems like we are gradually getting closer and closer to understanding what they were talking about.

Q: (L) Do any of these emotions that we have talked about that were generated by DNA breakdown, were any of these related to what Carl Sagan discusses when he talks about the "Reptilian Brain"?

A: In a roundabout way.

Q: (L) Okay, at the time this "Mark of Cain" came about, were there other humans on the planet that did not have this configuration?

A: It was added to all simultaneously.

Q: (L) How did they physically go about performing this act? What was the mechanism of this event, the nuts and bolts of it?

A: Are you ready? DNA core is as yet undiscovered enzyme relating to carbon. Light waves were used to cancel the first ten factors of DNA by burning them off. At that point, a number of physical changes took place including knot at top of spine. Each of these is equally reflected in the ethereal.

Q: (L) Is that all?

A: No. But, do you need more?

Q: (L) Well, the question I do have is, how many people were there on the planet and did they have to take each one and do this individually?

A: Whoa.

Q: (L) How many people?

A: 6 billion.

Q: (T) That's 500 million more than there are now.

A: No, 200 million.

Q: (L) Okay, there were this many people on the planet, how did they effect this change on all of them?

A: Light wave alteration.

Q: (L) And light waves, actual light waves, affect DNA?

A: Yes.

Q: Now, let me get to MY questions! You once said that the core of DNA is an as yet undiscovered enzyme related to carbon. Is that correct?

A: Yes.

Q: Here in this book it says:

"Evidence is accumulating that only a relatively small portion of the DNA sequence is for so-called structural genes. Structural genes lead to the production of protein. There are an estimated 50,000 structural genes with an average sized of approximately 5,000 base pairs, which then accounts for only 250 million of the estimated 3 billion base pairs. What is the rest of the DNA for? Some of the DNA is so-called repetitive sequences, repeated thousands of times. The function is unknown. The ALU, repeat, for instance, contains over 300,000 copies of the same 300 base pair sequence. Certainly this DNA is not junk and plays some important role in the gene regulation chromosomal architecture or chromosomal replication. Until 1977, it was thought that genes were single sequences of DNA that are coded into RNA and then into protein. However, further study has shown greater complexity. It is now known that there are pieces of DNA within a gene that are not translated into protein. These intervening sequences, or INTRONS, are somewhat of a mystery, but appear to be a very common phenomenon."

Now, is this thing they are talking about, these INTRONS, are these the core that you were talking about?

A: In part.

Q: What about this ALU repeat with over 300,000 copies of the same base pair sequence. What is it?

A: Tribal unit.
I know this is not news to most so I hope it is not just a distraction.
 

Laura

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I'm on another book that I won't recommend but will simply share the small parts that are interesting and relevant. But, before I do, I guess I should clarify what it is I am after with all this focus on evolution and biology: I want clarity in my mind about the fossil record and that DNA research vis a vis theories of hyperdimensional interactions as explicated by Cs and evidenced in various ways via anomalies and paranormal events/research.

There IS a "fossil record" though it is not as robust as the paleoanthropologists and archaeologists would wish nor does it at all support the strong assertions they make about human evolution and prehistory. But fossils, in general, don't have a super long shelf life under ordinary circumstances, and it is only extraordinary conditions that have preserved the very old fragments that have been found. More often there are "sites" where signs of temporary or long-term occupation are found along with other artifacts that don't decay, such as stone tools, hearths, etc. These are assigned to certain types of early humans based on various correlations with strata, location, tool-kit type, and so forth. But, as noted, most often, there are no human remains found at the sites.

The bottom line is that the fossil record is very problematical.

Homo Naledi is an interesting case in point. Homo naledi - Wikipedia :

"Prior to dating, initial judgement based on archaic features of its anatomy favoured an age of roughly two million years old. In 2017, however, the fossils were dated to between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago, long after much larger-brained and more modern-looking hominins had appeared."

In short, based on looking at the skeleton and assigning it a place in the "evolutionary timeline", they gave it a great age, but the results of the scientific tests said "nope, not that old." See article here: The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution

The biochemical and DNA types of research are extremely interesting even if the researchers made a lot of bogus claims at the beginning simply from lack of knowledge and awareness and expertise in a new field. An example is the "Eve Hypothesis". Bogus. But probably a sincere mistake. On the other hand, considering the politicization of anthropology following WW II (and even earlier, following Darwin), some mistakes are not so sincere but are driven by agenda. See also this post: The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution

In the "Into Africa" thread, (The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution) I recommended a little book: "Making Sense of Genes" by Kostas Kampourakis for those who wanted/needed a better foundation in genetics. It's a good layman's introduction. Truthfully, without this basic understanding of genes and what they are and how they work or do not work, it's difficult to realize the main points of evolutionary theory and why some of it has to be that way and why some of it seems totally ridiculous. The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution See also: A Chemist Shines Light on a Surprising Prime Number Pattern | Quanta Magazine

In that same thread, I speculated a bit about neoteny starting here: The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution I'm going to include part of that post here:

One thing that occurs to me is that the DNA based claims rely very much on the separation from apes and the "dna clock" that produces a timing for that event. But, when one considers demographics, genetic drift, for all we know, that split represents just ONE group that contributed to the gene pool. In other words, just as the Eve hypothesis has proven to be wrong because of the later finding of archaic "ghost populations" in dna, so might that split also prove to be wrong. See mainstream view here: https://phys.org/news/2016-02-humans-apes.html

One thing that exercises my mind is this: the so-called human lineage AS IT IS NOW KNOWN is closest to chimps and gorillas which are found only in Africa. BUT, just above this in the tree is a common ancestor of humans, chimps and gorillas that was also ancestral to Orangutans, Gibbons and Siamangs, all of whom are found in East Asia. Go another step up and there is the common ancestor of Old World monkeys (OWM), and New World Monkeys (NWM).

Now, one might assume that the OWMs and NWMs separated at the time of the continental splits UNLESS we are to assume some other means of travel. Ciochon and Olsen suggest that they traversed the very small Atlantic by Island hopping not long after this divide was initiated. This article tells us: https://phys.org/news/2006-05-continents-geology-picture.html

About 525 million years ago, that land mass broke apart, with North America on one side and South America, Africa and the small island pieces on the other. The two plates drifted apart, forming the Iapetus Ocean.

Twenty-five million years later – at the time of the first fish and land plants – the strip of land that used to be the small islands broke off South America and Africa and began moving across Iapetus towards North America. This movement closed the Iapetus Ocean while at the same time opening the Rheic Ocean.



So, effectively, it is saying that the continents split that long ago... way longer in the past than is possible for our NWM and OWM split.
In fact, the first incipient primates supposedly did not appear until after the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago and needed time to develop to primate stage before the split.

That leads to a rather pressing question: how did NWMs get there?

Coming back to our African and East Asian split, the brachiating apes that include man, and do NOT include NWMs, it is proposed by one group that some apes left Africa and went to East Asia (trying to preserve the African origin of everything) and others, that the apes of Africa traveled there from East Asia. Gribbin and Co. suggest this view (and it is attractive). It does seem that, since the Gibbons, Orangs, Siamungs, etc, are higher on the tree, where they are found is most likely the origin of the ones found in Africa.

But that leads to the problem of the previously mentioned NWM and OWM split: it almost seems as though the simians came to East Asia via an Eastern route - from South America to East Asia - rather than going from Africa to South America. Either that, or the NWMs went to South America from East Asia the same way African apes went there from East Asia. [EXCEPT FOR THE PROBLEM THAT NWMs are NOT BRACHIATORS.]

A couple of things that may be significant: the Neoteny change. This could have happened to a single individual via mutation, probably a male. He could then pass this mutation on via numerous females, and presto, you have the first little band of incipient humans. After initial efforts to "get along" with their more apeish parents and grandparents and cousins and such, they figured out that they were too different so they took themselves off and speciation was on the way.

Second, it has been noted that the first blonde/white skinned type was found near Lake Baikal.

Analysis of ancient DNA data shows that western European hunter-gatherers around eight thousand years ago had blue eyes but dark skin and dark hair, a combination that is rare today. The first farmers of Europe mostly had light skin but dark hair and brown eyes - thus light skin in Europe largely owes its origins to migrating farmers. The earliest known example of the classic European blond hair mutation is in an Ancient North Eurasian from the Lake Baikal region of eastern Siberia from seventeen thousand years ago. The hundreds of millions of copies of this mutation in central and western Europe today likely derive from a massive migration into the region of people bearing Ancient North Eurasian ancestry..." Reich, p. 96.


Now, Carleton Coon talks quite a bit about Neoteny and his work is worth reading for that, alone, I think. I noted a comment in the book that arrived yesterday where he suggests that blue eyes and blondification are FURTHER neoteny-related mutations. He also talks about the rounding of the skull as a neoteny related process and that the roundification of skulls in most groups around the world into modern times is part of this process. His discussion of the types and processes of evolution that can be observed in emigrants from one place to another is well worth the price of the book!!!

Anyway, Neoteny is the best explanation for the change in human behavior that I've seen. (Also check out "The Dopaminergic Mind"). Whether or not these mutations were induced, we can't say, but we can suspect it is possible, even probable. Geeze, it IS a process of "domestication", after all!!!

{End of my post to the Into Africa thread.}

So, notice my little speculation about neoteny along with the problem of the monkey splits. As it happens, in his new book which is quite a bore for the most part, Kostas Kampourakis proposes something similar for the monkey/homo split:

There are different estimates about when the evolutionary split between chimpanzees and humans took place, but we can roughly say that we separated from chimpanzees around 5 million years ago, whereas our common ancestors separated from the gorillas around 7 million years ago. ...

...stating that we are apes overlooks several of the significant, distinct features of the Homo lineage...

The big question then is: what caused the separation of our lineage from that of our close relatives?

...the differences between the human and the chimpanzee genomes have been estimated to be approximately 4 percent. ... Humans have 23 pairs of chomosomes whereas the others {gorillas, chimps, orangutans} have 24. ... One of the most striking differences observed was that the two individual chromosomes that exist in chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans were very similar to the two arms of human chromosome 2. This suggested that a fusion of two chromosomes that existed in the common ancestor resulted in a single, larger chromosome in humans. ...

Each chromatid {one of the pair of chromosomes} has one centromere and two telomeres. The centromere holds the two sister chormatids together... The telomeres form special caps at each chromosome end, marking the chormosome's end. ... When the centromere is located around the middle of a chromosome, thus dividing it into two arms that are approximately equal in length, the chromosome is called metacentric. When these arms are not equal, the chromosome is called sub-metacentric. When the centromere is located near one of the ends of the chromosome, the latter is called acrocentrick. Finally, when the telomere is upon the end of the chromosome, the latter is called telocentric.

What seems to have happened that likely paved the way for our evolutionary split from chimpanzees was that two acrocentric chromosomes in an ancestor of humans fused together, and the centromere of one of them was subsequently inactivated, resulting in a larger sub-metacentric chromosome. As a result of this fusion, sequences that used to be telomeric ones in the ancestral chromosomes, that is, located at their ends, are now located approximately in the middle of human chromosome 2. There actually exist two arrays of degenerate telomere sequences, one opposite to the other, which indicates that chromosome 2 resulted from the telomere-telomere fusion of two smaller chromosomes.

...This means that we have one fewer chromosome. ... Because the fused chromosome is unique to humans, it is assumed that the fusion occurred relatively soon after the human-chimpanzee split, probably around 4 million years ago. {Here, I would say that this fusion was the CAUSE of the split, but Kampourakis is not brave enough to say that.}

In which cell could this fusion have occurred? ... The fusion could have happened during the meiotic division leading to the production of an ovum that ended up having 23 chromosomes. When that ovum of that female individual fused with a spermatozoon with 24 chromosomes, the result was an embryo with 47 chromosomes. Assuming that this new individual was a male, he would have a peculiar chormosome constitution, as the fused chromosomes of his mother would form a chromosome pair with the respective independent chromosomes of his father. However, this person was most likely healthy, as he did not lack any genetic material... it was just arranged differently .... It is similar to a rare type of chromosomal rearrangement known as Robertsonian translocation (found in one of every one thousand newborns). This translocation results from the fusion of two acrocentric chromosomes: in humans, chromosomes 13, 14, 15, 21, and 22 are acrocentric, and it is possible for any of them to be involved in a Robertsonian translocation. ....

The question now becomes: can this person [our theoretical homo progenitor who is actually still an ape at this point} who carries the fused chromosome 2 have offspring? {Apparently so, discussion of how is irrelevant here.} ... approximately half of the spermatazoa will have {normal} chromosomes derived from that person's father, and the other half will have the large chromosome 2 resulting from the fusion and derived from the mother.

This male person {ape} could have offspring with a female from the rest of the population. These offspring could have either 48 chromosomes like their mother, or 47 like their father. ... Now imagine that these individuals lived in a polygamous society in which males mated with several females. It would thus be possible to have even more male and female individuals carrying the fused chromosome 2. And when these would mate, they could have offspring with 48 chromosomes, offspring with 47 chromosomes like themselves, as well as offspring with ... 46 chromosomes. In this way, individuals with 46 chromosomes would come to existence. These would be our first ancestors.


At this point, the group of individuals with 46 chromosomes would be reproductively isolated, unable to produce fertile offspring with those of 48 chromosomes. The individuals with 47 chromosomes would gradually disappear. Kampourakis then says:

What I have presented so far is a plausible scenario for how chimpanzees and humans diverged from our common ancestor. All of the available evidence is best explained by this scenario.

A couple of points: Kampourakis tells us that the "Robertsonian translocation" occurs in one of every 1000 births today so it seems quite possible, even probable, that this fusing of ancestral chromosomes to make human chromosome 2 could have happened more than once, in more than one population of apes, in more than one place. That's the first thing. One thing that argues against that is the fact that we haven't seen it taking place in populations of gorillas, chimpanzees, or orangutans in recent times. Which brings me to the second point: perhaps it was a very rare - almost impossible occurrence?
 

Joe

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Mysterious ancient humans with brains like modern people prompt rethink of early evolution

Mysterious ancient humans with brains like modern people prompt rethink of early evolution

'What if we have been studying the rise of modern human behaviour, and it’s not the rise of modern human behaviour?'

An ancient species of human with a brain no larger than an orange may have possessed intelligence to rival that of our own species.

Despite their size, the brains of Homo naledi have many of the sophisticated features found in modern humans.

The discovery has led to suggestions that long-standing beliefs about the evolution of human brains are “fundamentally wrong,” and much of Africa’s archaeology should be reconsidered.

H. naledi was revealed to the world in 2015 after at least 15 skeletons were unearthed in a South African cave. It immediately caused a stir because of its combination of primitive and advanced characteristics.

From the outset, one of the scientists behind the discovery, Dr Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand, insisted there was more to this new species than its diminutive 5-foot stature suggested.

“We argued that H. naledi was exhibiting some very complex behaviours,” he told The Independent. “We said it had a tool-making hand – or at least a potentially tool-making hand – we pointed out it had small feet and we rather controversially said the site may be a deliberate body disposal site.”

This point in particular struck a chord, as the idea these ape-like humans buried their dead in a ritualistic manner would suggest a level of sophistication never before seen in such apparently primitive creatures.

“That obviously caused some uproar in the field because of course everyone said ‘it can’t, it has got too small a brain’,” said Dr Berger.

To determine whether there was more going on in the heads of these ancient humans than met the eye, Dr Berger enlisted the help of colleagues who could help him piece together skull fragments and create digital reconstructions of their skull interiors.

"This is the skull I've been waiting for my whole career," said lead author Dr Ralph Holloway, a physical anthropologist at Columbia University.

Using this technique, scientists can determine the structure of the brain, which “beats a mirror image of itself” onto the inside of the skull.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

On one level, the researchers’ reconstruction confirmed what they already knew – H. naledi had incredibly small brains comparable with primitive human-like creatures called Australopithecines.

However, when the small brains found in Australopithecines were subjected to the same analysis as H. naledi, they were found to have far more in common with chimpanzees than modern humans – as might be expected.

Whereas scans of the H. naledi revealed complexity in many areas – including regions linked with emotion and a large frontal lobe associated with language.

"It's too soon to speculate about language or communication in H. naledi," said co-author Dr Shawn Hurst of Indiana University. "But today human language relies upon this brain region."

Dr Berger added: “H. naledi has got all that, but packaged in the brain the size of a large orange. Here we have a violation of that sacred cow – the idea there was this link between ever increasing brain size paralleled with ever increasing complexity – yet you have this tiny brain which is in effect every bit as complex as a modern human.”

This is significant because it prompt a rethink about what the size of the brain means for our intelligence.

Dr Simon Underdown, an anthropologist at Oxford Brookes University who was not involved with the study, said the work was “really interesting”, although he noted the limitations of the methods used to investigate ancient human brains.

“The inherent weakness is that’s only what the outside of the brain looks like – and we know an awful lot of what goes on in our brain is internal,” he said.

However, he added: “You can look at the relative size and shape of different parts of the brain and look at what it looks like in a generic comparison ape and what it looks like in humans – and then look at where H. naledi sits”.

In 2017 geologists placed this unusual ancient human in southern Africa between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago, meaning they may have shared the region with modern humans.

Their exact relationship with humans, however, is unknown. They could be at the base of the human family tree, they could be our distant cousins, or they could – according to Dr Berger – even have hybridised with modern humans.

All of this is still highly speculative, but one of the most exciting conclusions to be drawn from this work is the challenge it poses to archaeologists trying to piece together the story of human evolution – and human intelligence.

Dr Underdown said: “The fact that it’s sitting 250,000 years ago in southern Africa where we are beginning to see in the archaeological record an explosion in complex tool use that we were attributing to modem humans – we can’t be so arrogant any more. This does open up other possibilities."

“There is always the danger when you have just got stone tools, you don’t 100 per cent know who made them because we don’t have all the fossils.”

To find out for sure, archaeologists will need to discover more evidence that directly links these archaeological sites with either our own species, H. naledi or perhaps another species entirely.

For the time being, Dr Berger said researchers cannot take for granted many of their assumptions about early humans.

”What if we have been studying the rise of modern human behaviour, and it’s not the rise of modern human behaviour?” he said.
 

luc

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Thanks Laura for recommending this book. Finished about half of it and it's furiously interesting! I always felt uneasy about the neo-darwinan "random mutations" concept of evolution, because the numbers just don't add up - even if you have a time frame of billions of years, it seems impossible for "random mutations" to come up with cells, organs, eyes etc. by chance, which would take much more time, and then even more time would be needed for natural selection to wipe out all the evolutionary dead ends... Now I know that not only don't the numbers add up, but it's impossible in principle! It's so obvious when you think about it - if you leave anything to "chance", the forces of entropy destroy it. How could anyone believe that entropy can somehow come up with marvelous creative solutions and new complex life forms!? Kinda symbolic from a spiritual perspective too: we are led to believe that entropy is a great, beneficial force...

So far, I can't see a lot of religious shtick in the book, but I do find it fascinating how upside down our world is: just as conservatives have become the new "counterculture" and voice of reason while the liberals have become the totalitarian oppressors, religious "believers" have become the voice of rationality and true scientific inquiry, while most atheist scientists have become mere defenders of an irrational and wrong orthodoxy. This is a simplification obviously, but still! Thanks again for bringing this great book to our attention.
 

Konstantin

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A few days ago I also started to read this book. I found a time to read just a few pages and it looks very interesting. I will continue with this book and with the related threads on this forum I like the subject and I want to learn more about it.
 
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