Fishy ear story reported in ScienceNOW, news@nature 18 Jan 2006 and Nature vol 439, p318, 19 January 2006. One of the problems involved in evolving from a fish to a land dwelling animal is building the middle ear, an air filled cavity containing a bone that conveys sound from the eardrum to the inner ear. Palaeontolgists at Uppsala University, Sweden have studied the skull of a fossil fish named Panderichthys believed to have evolved 370 million years ago, about the same time the first land dwelling animals were evolving and compared it with another fish and an “early tetrapod” (four legged land dwelling animal). Like sharks and rays Panderichthys had a hollow tube called a spiracle through the roof of the mouth supported by a bony strut called the hyomandibula. The Uppsala researchers found that the fossil fish had “a wide, straight spiracle rather than a narrow one, and a shortened hyomandibula.” They concluded that the spiracle was evolving into the middle ear cavity and the hyomandibula was evolving into the sound transmitting bone.

Hans Thewissen of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, a leading expert in the evolution of the ear, commented: “It’s neat to see that transition.” The news@nature article describes the Uppsala scientists’ findings as “capturing a snapshot of evolution in action.” The Uppsala researchers suggested “Pandericthys” used the spiracle to convey water to the gills directly from the outside rather than through the fish’s mouth, much the same as in living sharks and rays. These fish have breathing tubes that enable them to inhale water but avoid taking in grit and mud through their mouths when they are lying on the sea bed.

Editorial Comment: This study and the comments made about it illustrate the vast difference between observed facts and evolutionary faith. The facts are this fish had a wider breathing hole and shorter supporting bone than other fish. The idea that the breathing hole and supporting bone were turning into an ear is pure faith. Thewissen’s comment exposes a fundamental flaw in evolutionary claims about transition. Transition is an active process.

If it did occur, it could only be observed in living things, where scientists could observe ongoing processes. Fossils are dead and buried and are not doing anything. (Ref. evolution, respiration, fish, ichthyology)