So having had a look at the paper, and watched the video courtesy of Nature I thought I'd see how the various newspapers reported this new and interesting discovery.
As far as I can see The Daily Express doesn't cover it at all. But as their astrologer is writing a guide to getting fit in 2010 I think they might have given up on being a newspaper these days.The Mail
throws the "Missing Link" phrase around in the first paragraph. Which is a shame, because I've not seen it mentioned anywhere in the reporting or the press release. If anything this is something that would have been largely ignored if it was contemporaneous with the body fossils- "Oh neat, tetrapod trackways. Oh they're marine. That's interesting, virtually everything else is freshwater" would have been the response. However the rest of the article is not bad- the quote from Ahlberg reads like the abstract, and they've lifted some quotes from Phillipe Janvier's "News and Views" article accompanying the Nature paper. I think they fumbled it a bit, but made a decent recovery. Just don't look at the comments.The Guardian
is pretty good actually. Doesn't use the "missing link" phrase, which I think is a win. Quotes Janvier (who made the important point that the sequence of fossils probably hasn't changed, its just that the timing of the actual transition is way off). It also quotes Ahlberg and Jenny Clack (though it initially spelt her name wrong- but this is the Guardian, so that's to be expected). Where I think it does best is online, where there's the blog by Adam Rutherford providing more information I mentioned last time.The Indy
is generally very good, and provides more information about the circumstances leading up to the find- they were thought to be dinosaurs until they had another look at the fossils in the surrounding rocks to work out how old they really were. It probably explains why the article says "They occurred in a rock formation several metres beneath a younger rock formation.
" because otherwise that's a totally pointless statement- there's no information about why this younger formation is important. Did it contain the conodonts that they used to work out how old the rocks were? Was it just a pretty colour? What? Enquiring minds wish to know.The Times
however seems to be making stuff up. It describes the creature that made the tracks as looking like a stout crocodile, which is not an inaccurate description of the typical early tetrapod. However it says that; "However, unlike the modern-day crocodile, the ancient creature appears to have held its body up from the ground as there is no trace of it being dragged along. It may have been closer to a dog in terms of posture.
" No. Seriously. Just No. Crocs have legs that stick out from the side less than that of lizards or salamanders, giving them a semi-erect gait that raises their bodies off the ground. Dogs have a very different gait, their legs are directly under their bodies like dinosaurs, and mammals. All the early tetrapods have sprawling gaits- we don't see body or tail trails because the animal was supported by water in the intertidal zone, and because it had a sacrum which allowed it to support its tail with the hind limbs. Dogs don't enter into this anywhere.
Its also not true that the rocks "teemed with marine fossils". Tracks are common, but body fossils are extremely rare, and this is not uncommon. There seems to be something about environments that are good for preserving tracks, but lousy for preserving the organisms that made them. I think however they may have redeemed themselves by solving the question of why they were thought to be dinosaur tracks- the man who first discovered them didn't know how old the rocks were.
The red-tops seem to have completely ignored it, which is not surprising- Metro gave it a sentence or two, and I can't find it on the intertubes.
So not a bad showing for the papers this time round. Shame the creationists turn up with their "how can you know so much from a footprint?" crap. Well dear, lots. There's a whole science out there that you're completely ignorant of called ichnology.