The Exclusion of the Inclusion

Bugs, feathers, plants and lizards. Plenty of them doing time in amber.

Obviously they can be fit into a respective evolutionary pattern, which then should correlate to a certain time period in the long history of earthly evolution.

Except they don’t.

Trying to fit amber inclusions into the evolutionary pattern has become a game of hammering the peg into the preconceived hole: sometimes they fit just perfectly, sometimes they don’t, sometimes we have to cheat. And sometimes the peg is square and the hole is round and you have to hit hard to make it fit.

Really hard.
As an example serves our good friend, the anole, a.k.a. gecko, a.k.a. lizard, a.k.a. That Little Green Thing That Just Crawled Over My Foot.

You can’t go to a Caribbean island without coming across one of these adorable tiny lizards, and when amber was still a sticky goo dripping from the trees, they were already out and about.

Lizard in Dominican amberIt is interesting, if unnerving, to note that the million-year old anoles found in amber seem to stem from the same family as the ones alive today – as if the lizard in the amber was enclosed just last year.

This sort of takes all the fun out of evolution because it would mean that anoles did not evolve at all over the past 30 to 15 million years, while in the same time frame humans managed to climb down from the trees, shed fur, walk upright, use tools, invent wars, Hotdogs, New York and the Super Bowl. Apparently anoles just sat around and watched.

Let’s do some hammering. The most logical explanation we have for this discrepancy is that evolution works in intervals – short bursts of evolving that last a few million years or less and then nothing for a few epochs. Once the burst is over the species establishes itself and sticks around for a while without changing. Further evolving may be possible after that, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The other explanation is shorter, and some people start rolling their eyeballs when you bring it up — you know what I mean.