Thursday, 22 January 2009

Making a splash

It has been said that all you need to disprove evolution is to find a rabbit fossil in the Cambrian explosion (presuming it stands up to scientific scutiny). All theorys are at best provisional, although they may have a certainy so high that to doubt they are a fact is beyond reasonable consideration (to badly paraphrase Stephen J. Gould).

One piece of evidence has come to light that, while not contributing towards evolution's downfall, may spell the end for another theory, that of New Zealand having sunk beneath the waves in time gone by. Aroudn 26 million years ago NZ was under water as evinced by a paucity of evidence... but now there is evidence from local kauri that it was around then.

This was the first I'd heard of the "NZ beneath the waves" idea (not really my area of expertise), so I went looking. First step, find out when that was. 26 million years ago put it in the Oligocene Era (33.7m - 23.8m.y.). So, if this is so prevalent, should be able to find it easily... the first relevant entry lead me to New Zealand Evolutionary Evidence by the University of Waikato.

Looking at the Oligocene Era entry gives this info: Two thirds of modern day New Zealand were submerged during the Oligocene, the movement of the tectonic plates in the north of New Zealand caused big areas of oceanic crust to be submerged. The little land that was left during the Oligocene was home to a decreasing number of species. Many died out but some snails, peripatus, frogs, tuatara and ratites survived. A similar scenario happened to the plants on land, and here the warmth loving beech trees became dominant.

Might just be me, but unless they updated that page really recently, it seems that this new hypothesis isn't as new as it sounded. (Which could either be the media over reporting, or reporting something now established but not well known.) Whatever the case, remember one important point: if the facts don't fit the theory, change (or discard) the theory, don't ignore the facts.


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