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PLoS ONE Reports on the “Ancient Origin of the Modern Deep-Sea Fauna”

An interesting new paper has just been published in PLoS One, describing the discovery of fossilised sea creatures off the coast of Florida, which purportedly shows that modern deep sea creatures (e.g. sea urchins, starfish) may have appeared far earlier than previously believed.

The abstract reports,

The origin and possible antiquity of the spectacularly diverse modern deep-sea fauna has been debated since the beginning of deep-sea research in the mid-nineteenth century. Recent hypotheses, based on biogeographic patterns and molecular clock estimates, support a latest Mesozoic or early Cenozoic date for the origin of key groups of the present deep-sea fauna (echinoids, octopods). This relatively young age is consistent with hypotheses that argue for extensive extinction during Jurassic and Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAEs) and the mid-Cenozoic cooling of deep-water masses, implying repeated re-colonization by immigration of taxa from shallow-water habitats. Here we report on a well-preserved echinoderm assemblage from deep-sea (1000–1500 m paleodepth) sediments of the NE-Atlantic of Early Cretaceous age (114 Ma). The assemblage is strikingly similar to that of extant bathyal echinoderm communities in composition, including families and genera found exclusively in modern deep-sea habitats. A number of taxa found in the assemblage have no fossil record at shelf depths postdating the assemblage, which precludes the possibility of deep-sea recolonization from shallow habitats following episodic extinction at least for those groups. Our discovery provides the first key fossil evidence that a significant part of the modern deep-sea fauna is considerably older than previously assumed. As a consequence, most major paleoceanographic events had far less impact on the diversity of deep-sea faunas than has been implied. It also suggests that deep-sea biota are more resilient to extinction events than shallow-water forms, and that the unusual deep-sea environment, indeed, provides evolutionary stability which is very rarely punctuated on macroevolutionary time scales.

Aside from the obvious conflict between the divergence molecular-clock-based estimates and the fossil evidence, what is particularly remarkable is the striking similarity of these ancient creatures to modern deep sea fauna. Indeed, as Science Daily put it,

Previously, researchers believed that these present-day animals evolved in the relatively recent past, following at least two periods of mass extinction caused by changes in their oceanic environment. The new fossil collection described in this study predates the oldest known records of the present-day fauna. “We were amazed to see that a 114 million year old deep-sea assemblage was so strikingly similar to the modern equivalents,” says lead author Ben Thuy. [emphasis added]

Another day; another bad day to be a Darwinian.

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4 Responses to PLoS ONE Reports on the “Ancient Origin of the Modern Deep-Sea Fauna”

  1. Another day in which the evidence doesn’t matter.

  2. Diversity was greatest in the beginning. Only later did it atrophy.
    The great change in sea life was from the flood event.
    After the flood a new dominance of types took over.
    The extinctions are really just massive death and reorganization after the flood.

  3. OT on the epigenetic front:

    Evidence of biological process that embeds social experience in DNA that affects entire networks of genes – October 11, 2012
    Excerpt: Early life experience results in a broad change in the way our DNA is “epigenetically” chemically marked in the brain by a coat of small chemicals called methyl groups,,,
    “This study provides strong evidence of a biological process that embeds social experience in DNA in the brain that affects not just a few genes but entire networks of genes,” says Szyf. “We highlighted the immense importance of the social environment during childhood and illustrated the profound consequences of child adversity on the way our DNA is programmed.
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....tml#ajTabs

    That add a little bit more weight to the following epigenetic studies:

    Anxiety May Shorten Your Cell Life – July 12, 2012
    Excerpt: These studies had the advantage of large data sets involving thousands of participants.
    If the correlations remain robust in similar studies, it would indicate that mental states and lifestyle choices can produce epigenetic effects on our genes.
    http://crev.info/2012/07/anxie.....cell-life/

    Genie In Your Genes – video
    http://www.genieinyourgenes.com/ggtrailer.html
    main website
    excerpt: There are over 100 genes in your body that are activated by your thoughts, feelings and experiences
    http://www.genieinyourgenes.com/

    Upgrade Your Brain
    Excerpt: The Research; In his book The Genie in Your Genes (Elite Books, 2009), researcher Dawson Church, PhD, explains the relationship between thought and belief patterns and the expression of healing- or disease-related genes. “Your body reads your mind,” Church says. “Science is discovering that while we may have a fixed set of genes in our chromosomes, which of those genes is active has a great deal to do with our subjective experiences, and how we process them.”
    One recent study conducted at Ohio University demonstrates vividly the effect of mental stress on healing. Researchers gave married couples small suction blisters on their skin, after which they were instructed to discuss either a neutral topic or a topic of dispute for half an hour. Researchers then monitored the production of three wound-repair proteins in the subjects’ bodies for the next several weeks, and found that the blisters healed 40 percent slower in those who’d had especially sarcastic, argumentative conversations than those who’d had neutral ones.
    http://experiencelife.com/arti.....our-brain/

    Genie In Your Genes – Book
    Book review: First of all, if you are a newcomer to Dawson Church’s writing, you need to know that his facts are unimpeachable – they were stringently peer-reviewed before publication. What is more, when Church makes categorical statements, he provides research to corroborate them.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....as2&c

  4. “We were amazed to see that a 114 million year old deep-sea assemblage was so strikingly similar to the modern equivalents,” says lead author Ben Thuy.

    But the genes are different. The genes evolved. We’re talkin’ faded glory to levi different…

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