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Earth Science

Did Land-Dwellers Emerge 65 Million Years Earlier Than Was Thought? 41

Posted by timothy
from the why-there's-a-snooze-button dept.
ananyo writes "A controversial paper published in Nature argues that enigmatic fossils regarded as ancient sea creatures were actually land-dwelling lichen. If true, that would suggest life on land began 65 million years earlier than researchers now estimate. The nature of fossils from the Ediacaran period, some 635 million–542 million years ago, has been fiercely debated by palaeontologists. But where others envisage Ediacaran sea beds crawling with archaic animals, Gregory Retallack, a geologist at the University of Oregon in Eugene, sees these sites in southern Australia as dry, terrestrial landscapes dotted with lichens. He proposes that rock in the Ediacara Member in South Australia — where palaeontologist Reginald Sprigg first discovered Ediacaran fossils in 1947 — represents ancient soils, and presents new geological data. Among other lines of evidence, Retallack argues that the rock's red colour and weathering pattern indicate that the deposits were formed in terrestrial — not marine — environments (abstract). Others strongly disagree."
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Did Land-Dwellers Emerge 65 Million Years Earlier Than Was Thought?

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  • Re:Okay Slashdot! (Score:4, Informative)

    by ananyo (2519492) on Friday December 14, 2012 @07:59AM (#42285681)

    hi - there's no conspiracy here. I have no special insight in what slashdot editors look for in a submission but I imagine that if they see a well written synopsis that helps. There's no way slashdot (nor any other aggregator site) could ever be ahead of the MSM (if you include Nature in that) on this - as research papers are sent to journalists IN ADVANCE of publication. This is supposedly to allow reporters time to put together an accurate story but also allows journals to control the news agenda a little. So this is why newspapers around the world publish the same science stories from the big journals at the same time.
    I live in the UK - so I tend to post stuff to slashdot during my morning. If an embargo lifts at 7 or 10pm in the UK (typical journal embargo times), I'm not around to post it until the next day. Other people often do post the same story before I can as a result.
    Lastly, it's no secret that I work for Nature - that's why a link to the news site and some smart googling of my user name reveals who I am. I've noticed the journal Science does the same (sciencehabit). There are good and bad things about that - news stories in Science and Nature are authoritative, in-depth and well balanced. They're far better sources of science news than newspaper coverage by and large, which is patchy and superficial by and large and often fails to address the big holes in the research. Because slashdot has editorial control, the editors get to decide which stories they take and which ones they decline.
    I would add that means that slashdot hasn't suffered from the same problems as some other sites, which link to pretty awful stories or worse, journalism-free press releases that are essentially advertisements from researchers/universities.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

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