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PALEONTOLOGY

Fossil ruffles a few feathers

AUSTIN, TEXAS - Re-examination of a 220-million-year-old tree lizard fossil indicates it may be the oldest feathered animal ever found. It predates the earliest known bird by 75 million years and casts doubt on whether birds evolved from dinosaurs.

The fossil, discovered in Kyrgyzstan in the 1960s, shows a 10-inch, four-legged creature, Longisquama Insignis. It had between six and nine pairs of featherlike appendages along its spine and "either coexisted with or predated the first dinosaur," according to Terry Jones of Stephen Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Others disagree. The feathers aren't on the ribs or legs as one might expect from an ancestor of birds.

GENETICS

Sheep made to custom order

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Two female lambs - Cupid and Diana - have been cloned from sheep DNA-altered to effect specific changes, Alexander Kind and colleagues at PPL Therapeutics, Edinburgh, Scotland, (who created the sheep Dolly) announced in the most recent issue of Nature magazine. The technique, which involves inserting a DNA sequence into a chromosome region of an adult sheep cell and then fusing the cell with sheep eggs, could introduce genetic alterations in other mammals.

ENVIRONMENT

Whales Change their tune

WOODS HOLE, MASS. - A powerful new sonar being tested by the US Navy affects the length of the humpback whale's mating calls and causes some whales to stop singing altogether. But the sonar doesn't seem to lead to any other extreme behavior, according to researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass. The whales might just be compensating for the noise, says scientist Patrik Millar. Still, he adds, the Navy should avoid active breeding areas when using the sonar. Benjamin White of the Animal Welfare Institute objects to the "assumption that the effects would be immediate and obvious."

Compiled from news wires by Stephen Humphries

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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