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Jurassic Beavers Challenge Current Mammal Theories 155

Bombula writes "According to a BBC article, Castorocauda lutrasimilis, a beaver-like creature discovered in the Jiulongshan Formation in China which apparently lived 164 million years ago, poses challenges to conventional theory of mammalian history. That is, of course, assuming this is a genuine fossil - no small assumption, given Chinese fossils' track record of forgery, fabrication, and fraud."
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Jurassic Beavers Challenge Current Mammal Theories

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  • by OwnStile ( 261614 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @05:33AM (#14799413)
    You can find some examples of fossil forgeries at []
  • by NCraig ( 773500 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @05:33AM (#14799414)
    That is, of course, assuming this is a genuine fossil - no small assumption, given Chinese fossils' track record of forgery, fabrication, and fraud."
    This certainly wouldn't be the first time that anyone's exaggerated the amount of beaver they've uncovered.
  • What? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Can we please have some examples of this fraud? I'm an ignorant American...
  • by Rank_Tyro ( 721935 ) <<ranktyro11> <at> <>> on Saturday February 25, 2006 @05:35AM (#14799420) Journal
    Remember, when confronted with a Jurassic Beaver, make sure to stand perfectly still. They can only see movement.

      OH NO....ARGHHHHHHH!!!
  • from the annals of improbable research:

    "The Okamura Fossil Laboratory," by Earle Spamer. During the 1970s and 1980s Japanese paleontologist Chonusuke Okamura published a profusion of microphotographs. These documented the fossils of previously unknown "minicreatures" -- minireptiles, minibirds, minidinosaurs, minidragons and minivertebrates. All of these creatures were 1.0-1.5 milimeters in size. [This report includes photomicrographs of a minibrontosaurus (Brontosaurus excelsus miniorientalis), a min

  • by Bueller_007 ( 535588 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:20AM (#14799490)
    It's easy to tell if it's a real Chinese beaver or not. Real Chinese beavers are very small and they taste like salted cashews.
  • More like a platypus (Score:5, Informative)

    by ynotds ( 318243 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:37AM (#14799524) Homepage Journal
    The article's authors must have been less interested in generating Australian interest than Slashdot sometimes seems to be, but save for the shape of its mouth the fossilised critter appears to have had much more in common with Australia's peculiar aquatic monotreme than with the mentioned northern hemisphere placentals.

    The fossil even has spurs on its hind legs just where the modern platypus has its unique-amongst-mammalia poison delivery system. Front legs equipped for burrowing suggests in may have also used very playpus-like diggings.

    While detailed dental structure is particularly important for cladistics, it is also something that can be subject to high selection pressure -- you have to keep eating -- so it would not be that unlikely that an otter-like snout would evolve into that equally unique to mammals duck bill during a 165 million year river journey from China to Oz.
    • What spurs? There's no mention of them in the article, nor others that I Googled for.
      • National Geographic (Score:3, Informative)

        by ynotds ( 318243 )

        Castorocauda has the ankle spurs characteristic of its nearest living relative, the platypus, which uses them for territorial defense. And like the platypus, Castorocauda was probably an egg-layer, Luo says.

        from 23_060223_beaver_2.html [] courtesy SeaMonkey history

      • In other news - Chinese scientists demand verification of their new theory which (they claim) gives a totally new answer to the age old question:- Why did the platypus duck ? If anybody cares, they (the Chinese scientists) claim also that they now know "When the platypus duck ducked" and they say they can prove it too. The question has been referred to the United Nations.
    • It sounds like an ancestral platypus or other otter-like or seal-like creature to me, too -- not at all like a beaver.

      The article is a little confused; it says:

      "Like modern beavers, the creature had fur, a broad scaly tail, and webbed feet for swimming. It was about the size of a small female platypus and had seal-like teeth for eating fish. "

      Modern beavers are RODENTS, and they eat tree bark (to be accurate, the growth layer under the hard bark) and small shoots. Beavers have RODENT type teeth for gnawing;
  • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:51AM (#14799551) Homepage
    it probably is.

    On the other hand - the mammals didn't originate from nothing 65 million years ago, but they were at the time more adaptable than the reptiles. This means that mammals must have existed earlier than 65 million years ago, but it is likely that they resembled mice and other small mammals and fed on insects and vegetation.

    Most fossils that we actually have from the jurassic period are large and important as they seem they are likely to be the top of an iceberg where the mass of animals are likely to be small. Unfortunately - small dead animals are likely to dissolve completely or have been eaten to the very last piece. This means that finding small fossilized animals will help us to understand the evolution better - so start digging!

    • "This means that mammals must have existed earlier than 65 million years ago"

      Mammals originated in the Triassic period over 200 million years ago, they are as old or maybe even a tad older than dinosaurs. Most known fossil mammals are small and shrew-like, but recently suprisingly large [] and advanced [] forms have been found. This new find is just the newest reason to rethink the evolution of Mesozoic mammals. Looks like they were way more diversified already in the age of dinosaurs than previously thought.
    • On the other hand - the mammals didn't originate from nothing 65 million years ago, but they were at the time more adaptable than the reptiles.

      No one in the subject has claimed that for I-don't-know-how-long. Fossil mammals have been known from Creataceous, Jurassic and Triassic deposits for years. But they've mostly been small fossils, implying small animals. Actually, one of the commonest types of fossil has been teeth, for the taphonomic reasons you give:
  • by Black-Man ( 198831 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @08:52AM (#14799750)
    In a seperate article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, they talked with the rep from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History who was part of the team that made the discovery. It was not solely Chinese. It was funded by the Carnegie and I suppose the fossils will be on display in PIttsburgh at some point.

    • Not to mention, after reading TFA I noticed there is no mention of the claim that this fossil may be a fake, in other words it was the high-and-mighty submitter's own contribution. Thanks, but keep your faux-expertise to yourself.

      Where exactly did this long track record of forgeries come from? Archeoraptor was a hoax found in China. But that's because, IIRC it was found from a vendor off the street. It's not like people in America weren't peddling Fiji mermaids years ago, or making Bigfoot prints now.

      • This long track record of forgeries came from sources just like what you describe: vendors, farmers, basically lots of extremely poor people out to make a quick year's wages. New Scientist had an article [] way back in Feb 2000 outlining just how bad it was back then. Now, would you conclude, given the incredible amount of money that can be had for so little labor in such an incredibly poor region, that such a practice would become more widespread, or less so?
        • Yes, but even the article summary describes the fossil as being found, not bought off some street vendor. One of the distinctions you may notice is that the majority of fossil forgeries in China are of already discovered fossils created to be sold to collectors. The Archaeoraptor, which I've already mentioned, is the only example of where a "discovery" was made and was convincing enough to fool the scientific community for a fair long amount of time.
          • the article summary describes the fossil as being found

            Oh, and we can always take article summaries literally? Even if we do, "found" can mean "bought", you know. Many major fossil "finds" these days are actually bought by fossil dealers from more common people who do the "finding", and then sold to the scientists who start the process of bringing them to front pages of periodicals near you (or not, as the case may be), which periodicals then proclaim "a startling find was found in China recently" (faceti

  • I would highly appreciate if someone pointed me to the mentioned Chinese fossils' track record of forgery, fabrication, and fraud.

    PS Complaint without URL looks like a slander :-).

  • This is kind of OT, but a friend in an archeology program told me once that Chinese interpretations of artifacts are a little unusual sometimes. An American team in China dug up a village from a few thousand years ago that was fairly typical, including a large structure in the middle of the village. The typical interpretation is that the building was where the "big man" of the village lived, i.e. the guy who ran the village. Villages everywhere have these buildings.

    The Chinese government's interpretation
    • Pardon my sarcasm, but archeology and paleontology are 'slightly' different fields of science. Or to be precise, the former belongs into humaniora and the latter is science.

      The Chinese might have their own ways of interpretation, but since this critter was found by a US/Chinese team, and has been peer-reviewed by Science (the journal, that is), we can be pretty certain of the accuracy of the interpretations.
  • That sounds weird. Fish and milk?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mammals evolved from reptiles that were fairly large. Over time most wound up the size mice to a modest sized rat. There almost has to be other even larger mammals earlier than the one found. Dropping size seemed to be nessaccary for survival but they always had the potential to be bigger. All indications were Dinosaurs weren't out competed by mammals but their passing openning an opportunity for mammals to take over. Also a it's inaccurate that dinosaurs turned into birds. A group split off and formed bird
  • Torrents for Jurassic Beavers 2 & 3 already on line...
  • Chinese fossils' track record of forgery, fabrication, and fraud.

    Everyone knows chinese fossils lie and cannot be trusted. Remember that fossil that claimed to be a dragon?
    • Actually, there's nothing particularly unusual about Chinese fossil forgeries. This is a minor industry in many parts of the world. Fossils sell well in tourist shops, and it's often much easier to make them than to dig them out of rocks.

      One of Stephen Jay Gould's many books was titled "The Lying Stones of Marrakech", and the first chapter dealt with this issue in his usual entertaining and informative style. The "lying stones" were fake commercial fossils from North Africa.

  • Chinese fossils, like anyone else's fossils, get peer reviewed and can withstand a little critical scrutiny from sources whose motives are largely unknown. That said, the palaeontological record from China is pretty amazing, as anyone with enough linguistic competence to access the world's most spoken modern language might realize. Also, on the face of it, the likelihood of a fossil like this being found eventually is pretty high. Fur and feathers are complex, well-adapted structures rather far removed i
    • Anyone who has their head buried so firmly and deeply in the sand to believe, WITHOUT SCRUTINY (scrutiny that you do not offer), anything that comes from China is an idiot. You are a racist if you believe that the original poster pointed out the history of and potential for fraud based solely on the fact that the scientists were Chinese. Let the flames begin...
  • This was published in Science . For the non-academics reading this, you need to know that Science has the most rigorous peer-review process of all the scientific journals. Unless someone here has material evidence that these are forgeries, I would advise all to accept these findings and restrict their critique to the scientific conclusions (that is if you have actually read the paper and have the necessary background to review the conclusions).
    • I dare to disagree. Recent big cases of misconduct (Jan Hendrik Schoen, Hwang Woo-Suk) involved forged data submitted, reviewed and published in...Science. Peer-reviewing for Science definitely isn't better than for J. Am. Chem. Soc., J. Phys. Chem., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. or even Acta Cryst E. (I'm dead serious on Acta Cryst - some co-editors there do a fantastic job!). The problem is: If you're trying to boost your career with fabricated results, you will probably not succeed by submitting a manipulate
      • If you are trying to say that peer-review in some top-of-the-line scientific journals could fail, I agree. The reviewers are scientists, not police investigators. They review the submitted data, and they usually do a "fantastic" job. I'm not claiming Science is scripture, but it is a whole lot more believable in my book than a few speculations by a group of web-site visitors that support their conclusions with stories from newspapers.
      • It's important to recognize exactly what went on with those forgeries though. They passed through peer review because the submitted methodologies and the basic math and so forth were all perfectly sound, and described things that science knows to be both possible and in fact to work the way described (i.e. we know cloning can be done, we're just not sure exactly how best to make it work). The problem was that the researchers lied about the results and the experiments. It's very hard to catch that sort of
  • Anyone else think that this was about mating habits of old people?
  • The bit about a challenge to current theories is mostly journalistic sensationalism. The Science article makes no such claim; only that it's an interesting new fossil of a (semi-)aquatic mammal from around 164 million years ago.

    You'd be hard put to find any paleontologist who has ever insisted that such a mammal didn't exist. The most you'd find is a lack of mention of such a mammal. But the fossil record is notoriously incomplete, and nobody with any understanding at all would claim that the fossil reco
    • Well, it IS interesting. I remember reading in textbooks that the genetic evidence of divergence between the groups of mammals (with some assumptions on mutation rate and so on) indicate a far earlier divergence, than the fossilic evidence does. From what I remember of those, a mammal this "original" that far back fits better with the genetic data. (which shouldn't surprise anyone, really, but a confirmation is certainly nice)
      • indicate a far earlier divergence, than the fossilic evidence does.

        What evidence? It's been known for quite some time that proto-mammals dominated the Triassic and were the largest creatures on Earth at the time. Rapid, catastrophic climate change (think "the worst possible greenhouse effect you can imagine") killed all the big proto-mammals, leaving only the much smaller ones to carry on. After the world began to recover and become more temperate dinosaurs took center stage, primarily due to their meth
  • Didn't someone call into Howard Stern a couple years ago (2002) to name a newly discovered beaver after Gary? I can't remember the names they came up with, but I do recall it being an extinct creature.
    Ta Ta Toothicus? I can't find any links, but I thought someone else might remember.
  • Karma Whoring (Score:3, Informative)

    by whitehatlurker ( 867714 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:02PM (#14801616) Journal
    Not really, but I thought people might like a link to the Carnegie Museum's press release [], which in turn links to a set of pictures of the beast []. (Nice big pictures, too.)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    if this is a fraud, let's hear the evidence.

    it seems that so many who claim to appreciate science don't even wait for the science to address this issue - they just reject it b/c it doesn't fit their paradigm?

    oh, i get it. you have faither this evidence is false and that is a good thing?

  • Everyone knows that asian's have sideways beavers...
  • I usually get Jurassic Beavers with me home from the pub.
  • by deblau ( 68023 )
    Jurassic Beavers Challenge Current Mammal Theories

    I wouldn't worry about it, the beavers are just jealous.

  • Jurassic Beavers Challenge Current Mammal Theories

    So I guess Bea Arthur having an internal struggle of, uh, mammoth proportions.
  • I bet those things smell horrible.

    Once I made the mistake of having day-old beaver, and the only thing I can say is that it was like a dried up crusty grilled cheese sandwhich with just a hint of mayo.

    I can't imagine how one from the jurassic era would taste?

    Ohhh. You mean animals? I though we were talking about...

Some people carve careers, others chisel them.