70 million years ago, a very duck-like, duck-sized raptor spent its days swimming and catching fish in the lakes and rivers of what is now Mongolia.
An amazingly complete fossilized skeleton of Halszkaraptor escuillei reveals a strange dinosaur, one that spent a good part of its time in the water hunting its aquatic prey, but was also able to move about effectively on dry land. Its forelimbs bore very long fingers, which would have been good for swimming. Strong hind limbs would have propelled it through the water or over land (and yes, they were equipped with the hyperextended claw shared with its more deadly relatives).
Halszkaraptor's neck was similar to a heron's, flexible and quick. Small teeth were perfect for gripping slippery fish or amphibians. Biologists performed an x-ray scan of the skeleton, and noticed structures in the little raptor's skull that could have aided in sensing disturbances in the water, similar to crocodiles and modern aquatic birds.
This amazing fossil find shows that paleontologists are still making new discoveries, and illustrates the amazing biological diversity on Earth driven by evolution.
Go here to read the National Geographic article:
The methodology of science is one of the most powerful tools we humans have ever devised.
The use of critical thinking and a rational approach to problem-solving, plus the actual procedure of asking a question, performing experiments, allowing peers to critique the approach used (lather, rinse, repeat) is amazingly effective. Application of science has saved untold millions of lives, led to awesome breakthroughs in technology, and helped us to reach out into space.
Children need to be introduced to this rational approach to solving problems as soon as possible. Weighing evidence and following the evidence where it leads are important in myriad large and small ways.
Unfortunately, there are continuing attempts to introduce magical thinking into public school science classes as if it is actual science--I'm referring to creationism/intelligent design, or whatever nomenclature those people are currently using.
Teaching creationism in a private religious school is not the issue. Teaching creationism in Federally-funded public schools IS a problem. It is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, because the government would be tacitly favoring/supporting one particular religion over any others.
This ongoing situation can only be fought effectively in the courts. Check out the PBS documentary "Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" for a look at what is at stake.
That's where the National Center for Science Education comes in. The NCSE engages in legal battles (and there are a lot of them) to keep religious instruction from being taught in public schools. The NCSE also sponsors outreach and teacher programs. They focus on supporting biological evolution, and climate change issues.
Full disclosure: I support the NCSE through donating my time in the form of graphic design and illustration for their publications. I think they are awesome.
Please check out their work via their website: ncse.com, and consider pledging support for their important and crucial work.
We HAVE to keep science in science classes.