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CNN(2): cheetah land speed record + father of bony fish

South African Cheetah Sets 100-Meter Record
Reuters              25-FEB-99

CAPE TOWN, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey would
have been left standing and awe-struck as Nyana Spier knocked three
seconds off his 9.86 seconds world record for the 100 meters. 

Nyana, a 17-month-old cheetah, chasing a fluffy toy leopard dragged
behind a speeding car, covered the distance in just 6.8 seconds late on
Wednesday as part of an event to raise badly needed funds for the
endangered species. 

Nyana, born and bred in captivity on the Spier wine estate in the
winelands area east of Cape Town, is part of the Cheetah Outreach
campaign, aimed at breeding cheetahs in captivity to support the genetic
viability of the species. 

There are about 1,500 cheetahs in the wild in South Africa, regarded as
under serious threat of extinction. 

Nyana will not be allowed to rest on his laurels. Three more cheetah
speed record attempts are planned this year in Namibia and the United

Chinese Scientist Unravels Mystery of Primitive Fossil Fish
Xinhua           25-FEB-99

BEIJING (Feb. 25) XINHUA - A leading Chinese paleontologist today
confirmed that a fossilized fish found in southwest China's Yunnan
Province might be the father of the "bony fish," widely regarded as the
origin of all modern vertebrates, including human beings. 

Zhu Min, research fellow at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and
Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), published
his findings in the latest issue of the British journal "Nature" on
February 18. 

At a news conference organized by the institute Wednesday, many
authoritative scholars said that Zhu's extremely significant discovery
challenges the traditional theory of the evolution of the osteichthyans
or "bony fish," and provides an important basis for further research. 

According to Zhu's thesis, featured on the cover of the journal, the
fossilized fish, or psarolepis, which is 410 million years old,
possesses characteristics of two sub-groups of "bony fish." 

"Zhu (and his colleagues), uncovering another example of this pattern,
present a basal bony fish with such an unexpected mix of characteristics
that it forces a reconsideration of large parts of the vertebrate family
tree," said Dr. Per Erik Ahlberg of Britain' s Natural History Museum in
a commentary in the same magazine. 

 "This early bony fish provides a morphological link between
osteichthyans and non-osteichthyan groups," said 34-year-old Zhu. 

"It changes the polarity of many characteristics used at present in
reconstructing osteichthyan interrelationships and offers new insights
into the origin and evolution of osteichthyans, " Zhu said. 

Zhu also said that the fossil fish from the Lower Devonian strata of
Qujing in Yunnan Province is one of the earliest osteichthyans yet
discovered. This research, led by Zhu, has been enlisted as a key CAS


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