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Earth Science

95M-Year-Old Octopus Fossils Discovered 290

Posted by kdawson
from the eight-by-eight dept.
mmmscience writes "A new study published in Paleontology is a truly terrific find. Not only did a group of European scientists find a fossilized octopus, they found five complete fossils that show all eight legs in great detail, including a ghost of the characteristic suckers. The discovery of the 95-million-year-old specimens was made in Lebanon. 'What is truly astonishing to the scientists is how similar these ancient creatures are to their modern-day counterparts. Dirk Fuchs, lead author on the study stated, "These things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species."'"
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95M-Year-Old Octopus Fossils Discovered

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  • Dirk Fuchs? (Score:4, Funny)

    by microbee (682094) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:44PM (#27230885)

    Dirk Fuchs, lead author on the study stated

    How to pronounce his name? Anyone?

  • Evolution (Score:4, Funny)

    by VisceralLogic (911294) <paul@@@viscerallogic...com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:44PM (#27230891) Homepage
    Apparently the octopus is the pinnacle of evolution! I for one welcome our new multipodal overlords!
    • by SIR_Taco (467460) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:00PM (#27231253) Homepage

      Oh yea?!
      Well if their so great...
      Just a second I've a knock at the door, well eight knocks to be precise...
      Oh, hello, well no I-

    • Re:Evolution (Score:4, Interesting)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:29PM (#27231819) Journal

      No not really. It simply means that the octopus has not been "challenged" by its ocean environment or catastrophe, and therefore not forced into extinction or modification.

      Turn the earth into a giant snowball, and then we'll see how quickly the octopus dies out. - http://nai.nasa.gov/newsletter/03182005/#9 [nasa.gov]

      • by powerlord (28156)

        Turn the earth into a giant snowball, and then we'll see how quickly the octopus dies out.

        Well, they're ok then. According to most people the world is going to be turned into a Giant Soggy Hothouse once global warming kicks in.

        Man: 0, Octopi: 1

      • by conureman (748753)

        Oddly enough, each of the California-endemic conifers seem to only remain in a tiny pocket, geographically at the extreme limits of their adaptability range.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just to point out the actual evidence here, separated from any and all interpretations:

      The first time an octopus appears in the fossil record, it appears fully-formed, identical to modern-day octopuses.

      Any interpretation you put to that, whether in favor of Evolution or Creation or the FSM or little green aliens, is just that: "Interpretation".

      It seems that if we're honest, and take this one case on its own merit without trying to fit it into an over-arching evolutionary paradigm, then this one specific cas

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:45PM (#27230917)

    These things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species.

    It doesn't evolve for 95 million years? It could have been a government octopus.

  • Lack of fossils (Score:5, Informative)

    by Haoie (1277294) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:48PM (#27230995) Homepage

    Normally for animal life, anything that doesn't either have bones or some kind of shell won't leave a fossil. Nothing to calcify.

    They can leave mud impressions though, which a lot of plants also leave.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd (1658)

      True enough. Of course, there are freak exceptions, such as when the conditions make it difficult or impossible for bacteria to do a whole lot. Trees in coal mines are of this sort.

      Another situation, which produces something analogous to a fossil but isn't really, is when you get a soft body forming an impression as a hollow. Again, this might happen if decomposition is extremely slow. If that hollow is then filled in at a subsequent time, you form something that looks like a fossil. (Really, it's casting f

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:49PM (#27231019)
    ... and the lead author's name is "Dick Fuchs"??? Am I the only one to see the irony here?
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:50PM (#27231027) Journal
    "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh C'thulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"
  • ok slashdot (Score:4, Funny)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:50PM (#27231029) Homepage Journal

    i want 10 cthulhu jokes moderated +5 funny, now

    i'll be back in 3 hours, don't let me down

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by VickiM (920888)

      You must not have seen the researcher's name. You'd better make it four hours.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Red Flayer (890720)
      Well, as Old Castro said, (emphasis mine),

      They all lay in stone houses in Their great city of R'lyeh, preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready for Them

      I knew it! I knew it! Cloning advocates are members of the Cult of Cthulhu! They are perfecting their methods so that they can clone The Great Old Ones from their "stone houses" (fossils) and bring us all to lamentation and ruin!

      I never thought I'd side with the fundies, bu

      • >I knew it! I knew it! Cloning advocates are members of the Cult of Cthulhu! They are perfecting their methods so that they can clone The Great Old Ones from their "stone houses" (fossils) and bring us all to lamentation and ruin!

        Not all of us. It's you unbelievers that will be eaten first.

        C'thulhu fhtagn.

    • by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:51PM (#27232279)

      So this cthulhu walks into a bar, right, and...

      Hey, anyone remember how this one goes? Damn, this over-22 thing is a drag...

  • selection pressures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:52PM (#27231087)

    It's funny how some creatures are under such pressures they rapidly develop and others have settled into their niche so well there's been little change, thus the living fossils. It's amazing to think that the ancestors of today's megafauna were little shrew-like nothings back then and were able to progress from that to elephants and rhinos and, hell, human beings while octopi and sharks are just tooling around looking pretty much the same.

    I know that there's no intelligent motive behind evolution, it is an impersonal process of optimization for a set of conditions and there's no selection bias for complexity, as we humans would view such things. It seems like the living fossils are stuck in a rut but as far as evolution is concerned, it's not concerned. There's no personified mind involved, nature is not a guiding intelligence, it's just genes playing along according to rules, rules. Still, I can't help feeling octopi's wife is nagging him "For crimminy's sake, just look at you! 95 million years and you're still mucking about on the ocean floor! There's an entire world out there of land dwellers! Those little shrews went and developed opposable thumbs and they're running the place! And just what have you accomplished, Mr. Eight Arms and no Endo-Skeleton? You just float around and let them turn you into seafood. I'm leaving you for squid! He's got backbone for an invertebrate! At least he's capable of taking out some air-breathers every now and then!"

    • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:33PM (#27231895)

      I know that there's no intelligent motive behind evolution

      That's a pretty bold statement. Any proof better then that of those that say there is?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Any proof better then that of those that say there is?

        Yes. Evolution can be observed to follow patterns not requiring intelligent design (e.g., Darwin's Finches [wikipedia.org] and the observed instances of new species creation). All God speculations have exactly the same amount of observable evidence: zero.

        • Yes. Evolution can be observed to follow patterns not requiring intelligent design

          `I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'
      • by Sabz5150 (1230938)

        That's a pretty bold statement. Any proof better then that of those that say there is?

        We can control it. We can manipulate it. We can make it do things it's really not supposed to.

      • by samkass (174571)

        That's a pretty bold statement. Any proof better then that of those that say there is?

        Merely that since it all can be explained without intelligent motive, that instead of Einstein's assertion that "God doesn't play dice with the universe", to the contrary if He's out there that's ALL he does with the universe.

      • by init100 (915886)

        By Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one. Introducing a deity adds unnecessary complexity with no gain, and is thus unlikely the correct explanation.

    • Yeah its like crocodiles. As long as we keep feeding children to them [bbc.co.uk] they stay cosy in their niche.
  • Creationism rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:58PM (#27231195) Homepage

    This fossil proves that evolution can never be the way species appear. We have so many animals that haven't evolved at all in millions of years: crocodiles, sharks, turtles, octopusses... I tell you, all these animals have been put on the Earth by the great Spaghetti Monster (hallowed be its name) and have proven worthy of staying. That's why they haven't become extinct.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rleibman (622895)
      Ramen!
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:29PM (#27231811) Journal
      According to the Second Holy Doctrine of the FSM, animals that are tasty with pasta were allowed to remain unevolved. Untasty animals are in the process of being intelligently evolved by touches of His Noodly Appendage until they assume a tasty form. Thus we can reconcile the evidence of evolution with the wisdom of the FSM.

      Such early examples of perfect tastiness with pasta should be eaten with reverence for the wise benevolence of His Noodliness's early omnipotence. Rejoice in your Polpi e Calamari Fettucine, for it is given by the grace of He of the Tangled Forkful.

      Ramen.
      • animals that are tasty with pasta were allowed to remain unevolved

        Are sharks tasty with pasta?

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      Pffft Horseshoe crab been around for 300-450 million years, kicks old octo's ass!

      While trying to figure out exactly how long the fossil record is for it I came across this:

      http://creationwiki.org/Horseshoe_crab#Horseshoe_Crab_and_Evolution [creationwiki.org]

      I am not sure what it says about me, but I can't tell if this is supposed to be serious or just satire...

      Also apparently this is not a new conversation as I also ran across this wonderful yahoo forum on the debate...

      http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=2009031006134 [yahoo.com]

      • by init100 (915886)

        Pffft Horseshoe crab been around for 300-450 million years, kicks old octo's ass!

        Orthoceras [wikipedia.org], which are closely related to octopuses, lived in the Ordovician [wikipedia.org] period, which makes them contemporary with the Horseshoe crab. Thus, octopus-like creatures have been around for a very long time, much longer than 95 million years.

    • No, this is proof of time traveling will arrive in the near future!

  • The moral of the story is, until recently, Octopuses were one of the dominant species of the planet. At least until man came around. Now, we eat them.

    Haha, our 8 tentacled friends... two hands with opposing thumbs have you beat!

  • by Saffaya (702234) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:13PM (#27231461)

    The remark about sharks and octopods not having evolved in millions of years, compared to all the evolutions witnessed on land, make me wonder if it is caused by the oceans being a more stable environment across the eons than land ?

    I mean, look at the coelancanth : living fossil. Do we have anything as ancient on solid ground ?
    Or is land intrisincally a much more dynamic/chaotic/subject to wild changes ecosystem ?

    • by Sabz5150 (1230938) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:32PM (#27231865)

      Well, I would imagine that the general environment above water changes much more and much more drastically than the one below. Things such as Ice Ages and volcanic eruptions aren't going to have a profound effect on a lifeform that lives hundreds of feet (or even several miles) below the surface of the water.

      Evolution requires environmental pressure in order to allow changes to be selected. If there isn't much of an environmental pressure outside of being faster than what's trying to eat you or smarter than what you're trying to eat, there won't be much evolution except to these ends.

    • by jd (1658)

      Bear in mind that the total inhabitable volume of the land is roughly equal to the total inhabitable surface area * 1 (to convert area to volume), and the total area of land (inhabitable or not) is less than a third of the total surface area.

      The oceans are staggeringly deep in places, virtually everything can be occupied by something (right down to the deepest of the oceanic trenches), and the range in which an organism can survive is often beyond comprehension (some whales dive to below 10,000 feet). This

    • by powerlord (28156)

      Or is land intrisincally a much more dynamic/chaotic/subject to wild changes ecosystem ?

      Well ... land does have this really aggressive predator that tends to wipe out lots of creatures, and influence their environment to such a degree that it affects even creatures that aren't directly impacted.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by g00nsquad (971393)
      Tuatara [wikipedia.org]. Also, "living fossil" is something of a misnomer. In the case of both the Coelacanth and Tuatara, the modern animals just bear a very strong resemblence to their fossil counterparts.
    • There are excellent 155 million year old dragonfly fossils [berkeley.edu] and other less beautiful ones that are roughly 300 million years old.
      There are a lot of very ancient insect orders. Mammals and birds are newcomers, and still changing a lot, but there have been animals pretty similar to turtles and crocodiles for millions of years, too.

  • I'm a fairly deep believer in God and it always puzzled me why someone would have a problem with evolution.

    I'm not asking you to believe in God if you don't, I honestly don't care. What I am saying is that those who believe in God and doubt the science should look at the story science teaches us for what it is and see the grandeur in it. Our universe is so big and so old, that it is a thing that a God would make, not some puny planet but a tree's age old.

    We always ask, believer or no, could God make a stone so large that He cannot move it? Maybe he can and he did, a simple set of equations that shape time and space into our universe that yields practically an infinity of variety, and is why we have free will.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by virtue3 (888450)

      I spent years trying to figure out this whole "fundie" mentality of religion myself. I think it just really stems from who is teaching and who is learning. I learned everything about Christianity and God from my grandmother (Wiccan/Catholic nun) and the jesuits at my private school in highschool. It's... very very different from everything else I've heard of.

      I mean, in all seriousness, my Bible study teacher flat out said that the reason there is a creation myth in the Bible is because all the other rel

    • by Sabz5150 (1230938)

      The problem that cdesign proponentists have with evolution (and subsequently, abiogenesis) is that it doesn't need a god. Everything in science has and must have a natural explanation. Moreso, science as a whole deals with physical evidence and testable predictions, of which there are none for the existence of a god.

      Sure, you can multi-class and be both scientific and still hold faith in a higher power, but that does not change the fact that science will never point to a deity. By its very nature, a supe

    • by Hatta (162192)

      What makes you think we have free will? Our bodies are entirely bound by the laws of physics. There's no room for free will.

    • by radtea (464814)

      I'm a fairly deep believer in God and it always puzzled me why someone would have a problem with evolution.

      You have to distinguish between religion as an individual belief in GOD and religion as a socially organized set of beliefs that that is built primarily around SCRIPTURE.

      We use the same term, "religious" to describe believers who think that in general terms there is something going on behind the scenes of reality that might reasonably be labelled "God", AND to describe people who think they know in det

  • Phenotype!=genotype (Score:5, Informative)

    by Taibhsear (1286214) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:23PM (#27231685)

    Just because their outward appearance hasn't changed in millions of years doesn't mean they have not evolved. Heat shock proteins, enzymes, internal organs, nerve systems, skin coloration, mating habits, immune cells, surface proteins, antibodies, etc. These are all things that may have changed through evolution that you might not notice by analyzing fossils. To say that these creatures have not evolved over millions of years is rather naive or ignorant.

  • It's dead (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:51PM (#27232275) Journal

    These things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species.

    Except, you know, for the fact that one is a rock and the other can only imitate the appearance of a rock.

  • I can't wait to see the reconstructed skeletons of these things.

    Oh, wait..

  • End result? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @05:56PM (#27233447)

    Maybe Octopii are the apogee of biological advancement, and all species, despite genetic drift and mutation, all end up evolving into Octopii.

    It will sure come in handy for multi-tasking (think circular desks!), but then again, all those Octopii species seem to have given up on technology.

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