That weird rock in the picture above is a fossilized Tully monster, Tullimonstrum gregarium, named for their discoverer Francis Tully. This weird creature has been known since 1955 only from the Mazon Creek fossil beds in Illinois. These critters are really strange, with eyes mounted on stalks and a mouth at the end of a long, narrow snout. What could this thing possibly be? McCoy and colleagues published a research paper this year that described a detailed examination of 1,200 different fossils of Tully monsters. They concluded that, believe it or not, the Tully monster is a kind of vertebrate, possibly similar to lampreys. This research won't end the discussion of this strange creature, but McCoy's paper will remain a standard reference on Tully monsters. Read all about it in Nature.
McCoy et al. 2016. The 'Tully monster' is a vertebrate. Nature 532:496-499.
Research from Dong and colleagues provided evidence that human beings have an intrinsic limit of about 115 years to their lifespan. This raises some questions about Methuselah and the rest of the Genesis patriarchs, but as I noted previously, this actually fits pretty well with a creationist understanding of changes in human lifespan. Check out my original blog post, then see the original paper in Nature:
Dong et al. 2016. Evidence for a limit to human lifespan. Nature 538:257-259.
"Mutualistic symbiosis" occurs when two organisms live close together and both critters benefit. The classic example of symbiosis is the lichen, a relationship between an algae and a fungus that's so close, they appear to be a single organism. This year, we all got a surprise when Spribille and colleagues published research that revealed a third partner in lichens. As it happens, lichens are actually composed of an algae and two different types of fungus. As an image of the relationship between God and us, I've long been obsessed with symbiosis, and you might want to check out the many posts about symbiosis I've written over the years. Check out the surprising lichen paper in Science:
Spribille et al. 2016. Basidiomycete yeasts in the cortex of ascomycete macrolichens. Science 353:488-492.
Over the past few years, some evangelicals have made headlines by suggesting that Christians don't really need to believe in a historical Adam and Eve. Traditionally, Christians have looked to Adam's original sin in the Garden of Eden to explain why Jesus needed to die for our sins. Needless to say, the idea that we could actually get rid of that theological point has been very controversial in the church. Detailed responses have been somewhat slow to appear, but this year we got two multi-authored works defending the historical Adam from the perspective of young age creationism. The first was What Happened in the Garden written by members of the Master's College faculty, and the second was a much larger work called Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man's Origin edited by Terry Mortenson of AIG.
We'll pick up the next four items in my top twelve list in the next post coming up tomorrow.
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