Fetid Fish Revise Understanding of Fossil Formation
February 1, 2010 11:37 AM   Subscribe

"These data revealed a surprisingly consistent pattern of decomposition throughout time. This pattern shows that as these modern fish decayed, their most recently evolved features -- those characters that are most informative because they distinguish closely related animals within the same lineage -- rotted first. The last features to disappear were more ancient; those that are shared by all vertebrates, such the notochord."
posted by brundlefly (11 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
"To conduct this simple yet elegant study, the team collected adult amphioxus, Branchiostoma lanceolatum and juvenile lamprey, Lampetra fluviatilis, from the wild and killed them. The researchers placed the bodies into clear plastic boxes filled with saltwater, sealed the lids, and incubated them at 25 degrees Celsius for up to 200 days..."

new worst job in science....
posted by ennui.bz at 11:46 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eat mor chiken.
posted by Senator at 11:48 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Furthermore senile people show childish behaviour.
I sense a Grand Unified Theory.
posted by joost de vries at 11:49 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

If evolution was occuring in fish, shouldn't we also assume it was happening in bacterial decomposers?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

new worst tastiest job in science...

Funazushi is a delicacy of Shiga Prefecture, near where I used to live. It is one of the few Japanese fish dishes I cannot eat.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:09 PM on February 1, 2010

Very cool, thanks for highlighting this. The bias this introduces is referred to by the lead author as a tendency for "stem-ward slippage": erroneously classifying the organism as being more "primitive" or closer to the stem of the evolutionary tree than they were. This suggests that the late Proterozoic / early Cambrian "explosion" really was that: a geologically short period of time of incredible innovation and diversification, followed by ~600 million years of tinkering.
posted by bumpkin at 1:21 PM on February 1, 2010

Decomposition inversely recapitulates phylogeny? Huh.
posted by codswallop at 1:43 PM on February 1, 2010 [8 favorites]

Huh codswallop, I always thought the first cup of coffee recapitulates phylogeny. :-)
posted by Peter Petridish at 3:49 PM on February 1, 2010

I'm afraid I only skimmed the article, but surely if this effect truly leads to "stem-ward slippage" then fossils in the oldest strata must uniformly have decayed more before complete fossilisation, than fossils in later strata.

I'm not aware of any mechanism that would explain how older remains must all be more decayed before they are fully fossilised than more modern remains.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 5:26 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, clearly this shows that all the so-called "science" behind evolution is WRONG.

Sorry, I just had to throw that in.
posted by sneebler at 7:28 PM on February 1, 2010

Trying to get the jyst:
The upshot of this is that fossils of ancient fish are most likely misleadingly simple, right? Implying perhaps, greater diversity and specialization at earlier periods that currently assumed?

JustAsItSounds seems to make a good point. This almost seems more like an oh fuck than an aha.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:01 AM on February 2, 2010

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