Transitionals

Posted by Frank on September 11, 1998 at 21:51:30:

While I was going over Dejanews, Talkorigins the newsgroup and the website it struck me that transitionals would be in what vestigial structures remain in the current population of whatever you're looking at. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm no biologist, botanist, whateverist, etc., but I like to think that I do have good points to make.

Why vestigial structures as "transitional fossils".

1:   Evolution does not work quickly. Those genes that do not affect the viability of an organism could "linger on" for a while and create these remnants.

2:  Vestigial structures would show where the lineage of the organism in question might have come from in the past or is a relic of another lifestyle. Two examples:
a:   Modern whales and vestigial legs.
b:   Those bones that some, not all, humans have.

Evolution has no problems with those examples and, in fact, would predict them. Creation Science on the other hand comes up DOA on the subject.

1: For a creation by fiat of all "unchanging kinds" by an omnipotent and infallible creator, vestigial organs and structures fly direct in the face of such a proposition. Either the creator is not so powerful/omnipotent or it is careless and lazy.

2: The idea that these structures "came after a fall/temper tantrum/whatever" would completely displace the "Information Theory" bag of garbage about loss of signal, not to mention the oft quoted claim by the local creationists here that information in genes "can only be lost, not added".

So to any creationist who wishes to answer questions:

1: Why would not vestigial structures be a good "transitional fossil", esp. in the case of whales and humans?

2: If information can only be lost, where would these structures come from? Remember, these have been with us longer than "radiation poisoning", "pollutants", etc.

3: If everything is in an "unchanging kind" created by special fiat, why would there be a need for these vestigial structures?


First Response

Posted by karl on September 11, 1998 at 22:23:27:

Modern whales and vestigial legs. Are they?

From what I read there not vestigial legs at all. Instead they are used for holding on during sexual intercourse......and that info came from the evolutionist camp.
For the true story behind the whale read it from the Ashby Camp http://home.sprynet.com/sprynet/trueorigin/whales.htm


Response to karl

Posted by The Dire Puppy on September 12, 1998 at 01:31:10:

Yes, it is correct in quoting Gingerich, et al, that the most likely function of hind legs of Basilosaurus were used as copulatory guides. What the article failed to mention is that most of the hind limb elements, in common with other mammals, are in fact present. ie.- femur, tibia, fibula, tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges. This can also be inferred by the vestigial limbs found on several modern cetaceans, since they are on either side of the genital slit.- Several papers on this subject are in the bulletin of Whales Research, in Japan. How the vestigial pelvic bones (and in some, the femora also), in moderm cetaceans may work as any aid in this respect, I don't know. Wish I knew more about the soft anatomy. They doubtlessly have some degree of muscle attachment, but may or may not do anything. I read Camp's piece awhile back, but if I remember right he did mention (briefly, at least one earlier whale), but I think he left out some of the juicier bits.

There are in fact several genera of earlier cetaceans known, and a few closely related "land" mammals. However first, I must say that at one creationist website (can't remember which) it states that evolutionists think that whales evolved from Mesonyx- with skeletal drawing given- (a strictly North American genus, that in no part has any close relation to the animals thought to be so, other than the fact that they are mesonychids- hooved predators). Of the skeletal comparisons I've seen between different mesonychids, only in the grandest sense could this be inferred.

Let's pick on Pakicetus first. Only a skull, a juvenile's jaw, and a bunch of teeth.  What has been gained of this?
Well for starters, the overall structure of it- very similar to that of Basilosaurus, Zygorhiza, and Dorudon.  The dentition, equally similar, as well as the lengthening of the nares, but not quite to the mid-snout region as in later archaeocetes.
One of the main differences is that the tympanic region is firmly articulated with the cranium, meaning that their directional hearing capability was not much better than ours. However, the structure of the incus and stapes are a beautiful intermediary between that of modern cetaceans and artiodactyls.

Then we come to Ambulocetus, of the remains recovered, one is a nearly complete skeleton. The tympanic region is loosely attached to the skull, giving it better directional underwater hearing, the premaxillae had extended to the point that the nares end at about the canines, the hind legs are much reduced in length, however, the toes are enlongated (and still ending in hooves, belying their mesonychid/ ungulate relationship).
It seems that the early evolution of the Cetacea is somewhat convergent with that of the pinnepeds.


Response to karl

Posted by Pat on September 13, 1998 at 23:33:20:

Modern whales have tiny vestigial leg bones, but they serve no function at all. The legs of basilosaurus are certainly vestigial for their original purpose, but they were possibly adapted for claspers during mating.
On the other hand, the early whale Ambulocetus natans had legs that were as functional as those of seals.


Second Response

Posted by MagFlare on September 11, 1998 at 22:27:31:

Say, what about those boa constrictors with vestigial, useless claws? Dare I ask?


Response to MagFlare

Posted by Frank on September 11, 1998 at 22:43:50:

Excellent point MagFlare

Just more questions for YECs to answer.


Response to Frank

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 23:10:27:

Why is the loss or degeneration of a structure considered evidence of evolution and against creation? It seems to me that what you need to be looking for are gained structures, not lost ones...

[Editor’s note: Helen’s response started a large thread of its own. For this reason, the third and last response to the original post will be listed next. There were no responses to it. After that third response, Helen’s response above will be brought out to the left margin to make room for the discussion that went on from that point.]


Third Response

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 12, 1998 at 00:02:44:

PK: I am inferring that 'unchanging kinds' is steady phenotypes, given your remarks about vestiges.

F: 1: For a creation by fiat of all "unchanging kinds" by an omnipotent and infallible creator, vestigial organs and structures fly direct in the face of such a proposition. Either the creator is not so powerful/omnipotent or it is careless and lazy.

PK: This notion may or may not be popular among YE Creationists (that life forms haven't changed much). I don't think it is Biblical. As an example, look at human life spans in Genesis. After the flood they drop from hundreds of years (nearly a thousand) to 175 for Abraham and 120 for Moses in Deuteronomy. I think that even the Bible suggests changes in life forms, even after the fall. Obviously, Michaelangelo's of anthropomorphizations and others do not convey that; he was painting models who lived at the time.


Helen’s Response, repeated

Why is the loss or degeneration of a structure considered evidence of evolution and against creation? It seems to me that what you need to be looking for are gained structures, not lost ones...


Response to Helen

Posted by MagFlare on September 11, 1998 at 23:20:26:

I think you're missing the forest for the trees here, Helen. A lost structure- particularly something as often-used as legs or gills- provides evidence that the creature descended from other species that actually used said structure.


Response to MagFlare

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 23:27:02:

Leaving you to your conclusions regarding relationships, how did those structures come about in the first place? Where is the evidence for that?


Response to Helen

Posted by Frank on September 11, 1998 at 23:32:16:

We have examples of whales with vestigal legs. We have fossils of whale-like creatures with legs. Evolution supports this kind of "decent with modification". Special Creation can't.


Response to Frank

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 23:36:37:

Your examples do not go against creation. Your conclusions do, but the examples don't.


Response to Helen

Posted by Frank on September 12, 1998 at 00:01:28:

Some whales have vestigial legs that do not pass through the skin but are there anyway, while others of the same species do not. Some humans have whatever that bone is, others do not. Humans have that tail and some are born with tails! Some boas have vestigial claws, while other don't.

In Evolution, those "leftovers" are the remnants of a time when they actually meant something. Now, as they have no use, they will fade.
In Scientific Creationism by fiat from an omnipotent being, why would such a being have these structures in that some have but most don't? By special creation of life, since there would be no speciation, no decent into anything else, the whole idea of vestigial parts is done by an entity that is A: not all powerful or omnipotent, or B: lazy and or careless.

How does YEC SciCre explain vestigial organs/structures that are present in a few, but not all members of a species?


Response to Frank

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 00:22:20:

Frank, a couple of points here:

1. There is a tremendous amount of variation in the genome of any given organism. That's just the way God created them.
Considering how much has been lost due to natural selection, in the course of time, the original animals and plants must have had a built-in capacity to vary that puts what is left on earth now to shame. That is my feeling, anyway.

2. What you are calling vestigial legs in whales may not be. I know that some whales have internal bones which help position their internal organs. Is this what you are talking about? But whatever you are talking about, the fact that some have these bones and others do not only means that some have them and others do not. It does not mean that they all used to!

3. As far as humans go, PLEASE check a book on fetal development! The coccyx is present before the muscles and fat, the same way the other bones are. However it is an integral part of your torso just the way it is. There is nothing about it that indicates tail except when the fetus is undeveloped and just those bones are present at first. As far as babies being born with tails, what they are born with, when that occurs, is a fatty protrusion. It bears no resemblance to a tail at all; no bones are involved; and it is rarely if ever in line with the spinal cord.

4. As far as boas go, I have no idea whether the claws you speak of are truly vestigial or not. Considering the curse God put on the snake in Eden, they might very well be vestigial.

And, again, speciation is not denied by creation


Response to Helen

Posted by Deb on September 12, 1998 at 07:49:13:

Natural selection works by modifying what is already there. I'm astonished that you don't know that.
You seem to want us evilutionists to admit that natural selection just "invents" something out of nothing. It doesn't. That's what you're trying to claim God does, remember?

There may not be much trace, if any, of the original structure, particularly if a lineage is very old. It actually came as quite a surprise to people when they discovered that the basic pattern for digits in tetrapods was eight, and not five. However, since we know that natural selection modifies previous structures, vestigials are almost a necessary adjunct. And handy, because they give us clues as to what those earlier structures were, and what their function may have been.


Response to Deb

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 11:06:27:

And I am astonished that you are avoiding the problem of how they got there in the first place so that they could be modified!


Response to MagFlare

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 11, 1998 at 23:51:13:

PK: This may be a completely exceptional point, put in the pro-thought spirit, I'll make it.

MF: I think you're missing the forest for the trees here, Helen. A lost structure- particularly something as often-used as legs or gills- provides evidence that the creature descended from other species that actually used said structure.

PK: Possibly in an extinct sense, loss of structures may suggest descent from another species. We do not observe reproduction amongst fossils and so it is difficult to apply the same notions of 'species' to fossil remains.

PK: The non-existence of horns on a breed of cattle does not make it a different species than the breeds of cattle with horns. If the two breeds were not interfertile, then they would be different species.

PK: So, the term 'species' can have a different meaing when used to refer to fossils.


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by Frank on September 12, 1998 at 00:11:49:

As my attempt has been to give karl examples of why vestigial structures make good "transitional fossils", you've helped too.

If I were to show karl, Helen, or yourself for that matter, that cow species "A" was from cow species "B", the major difference being that the horns on species "B" was 2 feet long and that species "A"'s horns were 6 inches, you'd demand that I show you species "AB" with horns 15 inches long.

Think that I'm stretching it? Well, what about the Protoceratop, Triceratop, and the Pentaceratop? Are they close, as far as species go?


Response to Frank

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 12, 1998 at 00:33:24:

F: Think that I'm stretching it? Well, what about the Protoceratop, Triceratop, and the Pentaceratop? Are they close, as far as species go?

PK: Honestly, I don't even know if they all co-existed or not. For all I know, they could be varieties of the same species.

PK: I think I know 2 things about horns. For some Artiodactyls, the horns are male only - deer; for some they are on both geneders - cattle and buffalo, etc. 2) Cattle horns are probably recessive traits; Angus cattle are polled - no horns, and their crossbred calves are hornless as well. The examples you cite were probably not artiodactyls ;)


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by MagFlare on September 12, 1998 at 00:13:14:

Both are caused by random mutation. If cattle without horns interbred for generations, what might result? Simple enough: a strain of cattle that tends not to have horns. Speciation, however, occurs when a species is forced to adapt. Those members with favorable features tend to survive and pass their traits to the next generation. Those who don't make the cut tend to die. Eventually, this new strain reaches the point wherein it can no longer breed with its predecessors. This has been happening for hundreds of millennia... I don't see how fossilized species had it any different.


Response to MagFlare

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 00:28:15:

Are the cattle still cattle?


Response to Helen

Posted by MagFlare on September 12, 1998 at 00:32:41:

Hmm, very precise question. Yes, the cattle still fit into the species of cattle. (I'll wager they still fit into 'kind' too.) Until, of course, they have mutated to the point where they are no longer compatible with previous versions. THEN they deserve a new species for that designation.


Response to MagFlare

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 00:36:26:

Are you aware of any time we have seen this happen?


Response to Helen

Posted by SGTex on September 12, 1998 at 01:10:15:

It's not reasonable to expect to see something happen which takes millions of years. However, we can readily see THAT it happens. For example, fossil evidence quite distinctly shows that whales are descended from land-roaming beasts. Oh, and reptile-to-avian transition is nicely documented.

It would be obtuse to say that just because we didn't see the first Archeopteryx hatch, it didn't happen. Sometimes I think the creationist denial of transitionals is the formal fallacy, "invincible ignorance." Confronted with a thousand examples, all they can do is keep redefining what would constitute "transitional."

Helen, the "loss" of legs in the whale corresponds to the "gain" of the new structures, the great flippers and fluke.

Response to MagFlare

Posted by Mockingibird1 on September 12, 1998 at 00:43:09:

MF: Speciation, however, occurs when a species is forced to adapt.

PK: This reads like adaptation.

MF: Those members with favorable features tend to survive and pass their traits to the next generation. Those who don't make the cut tend to die.

PK: So far the evolution is adaptaion.

MF: Eventually, this new strain reaches the point wherein it can no longer breed with its predecessors.

PK: Sometimes a group chooses not to breed with memebers of another group. For cattle, the presence or absence of the horns (a heritable organic structure) has no effect on mate preference or interbreeding.

MF: This has been happening for hundreds of millennia...

PK: So the existence or absence of structures is not waht distinguishes the species so much as whether they will/won't interbreed and can/can't have fertile offspring.

PK: Generally, morphology is used as a guide in assigning fossils to a species. For extinct forms, it would be the only way, but not necessarily an accurate assignment.


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by MagFlare on September 12, 1998 at 00:49:28:

Good points. Speciation IS caused by adaption over a few thousand years. My point was that the removal of unwanted traits can be as much of a step forward as adding new, useful traits.


Response to Helen

Posted by Frank on September 11, 1998 at 23:21:46:

Let's go back to the original point here. Why do some whales have vestigial limbs, that don't show outside the animal's skin (thanks MagFlare and Rod, I had forgotten about those things) and others in its same species don't have them?

Same for humans and that bone that I can't remember the name of, or some boa's vestigial claws for that matter?

As vestigial being for evolution and against creationism, if everything was designed as a "fixed kind", whatever that is as I never seen you or any other YEC come up with anything resembling an answer, why would some have them and others not?

With Evolution, vestigial structures are easy. With creation by fiat from an omnipotent being, it makes no sense.

Response to Frank

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 23:32:48:

What do you mean by a "fixed kind"? I have posted, and I know others have too, that there is a great deal of variation within kind.
And given the problems that mutations cause, I have no problem, as a creationist, with the loss or degeneration of an unused structure. One good example is blind cave fish. The fish did not start out blind and them some got eyes and went out into the open waters; just the opposite occurred. They started with eyes and lost the use and then the structure of them. If there are some who are still hatched with functioning or even non-functioning eyes, that would only tell me that the genes are still there and available.

Might it not be the same for the structures you refer to where some have them and some don't? If something had been lost by some or most of the population over time, is it not still reasonable to think the genes might still be there, and express themselves occasionally?
I honestly don't have a problem with that.


Response to Helen

Posted by Rod on September 11, 1998 at 23:23:19:

Loss of a structure is evolution. Any morphological change is evolution. The whales hind legs, a snakes hind legs, our "tailbone".   All examples of evolution in progress.


Response to Rod

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 23:34:35:

but I NEED my coccyx!

And, again, it is not the loss of structures that puzzles me about evolution, but the gaining of them in the first place. You can call anything you want evolution, but the fact is that between the bacteria and the bear, something was gained.


Response to Helen

Posted by Rod on September 12, 1998 at 00:41:36:

Sure something was gained. Slowly and over time. So, What is your problem with evolution?


Response to Rod

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 01:05:32:

I know enough about mutations to know they couldn't do it. So how were all those structures gained?


Response to Rod

Posted by Jim on September 12, 1998 at 09:48:29:

Slow incremental change does not account for the incredible increase in complexity from a bacterium to a hydra much less a mammal. If random genetic change is the driving force you would need more time than is allowed to get the changes necessary.

Additionally, you will need to alter many things at once, not just one change at a time. Just for bacteria to "evolve" a flagella takes several simultaneous changes that individually would accrue no benefit to the organism and could actually make survival less likely.


Response to Helen

Posted by SGTex on September 11, 1998 at 23:40:29:

Cetacean vestigial legs and the subsiding of eyes in cave creatures are evolution in progress for sure, representing successful adaptations. It is immaterial whether the advantage comes from loss or gain of a feature, advantage is advantage.

The pale cave salamander not only has no need of eyes, but would suffer if it had them. Its ancestors who retained eyes were going around with two functionless vulnerable places on their heads, and any offspring they had whose eyes were missing fared just a bit better in terms of survival. Just so with whales. Primitive whales must have wagged little legs around with them for a spell, but the offspring having the smallest legs had that much less to worry about, and THEIR descendents fortunate enough to be born without legs must have produced the line we see today.

A Creator might only tack things on and never subtract, but reality supplies new structures and sloughs off outmoded ones. Both fossil data and the anatomy of present organisms contain abundant evidence of transition.

Vestiges of previous species abound in the human realm. When just dozing at night and suddenly jerk with a general startle reflex, often accompanied by a transient dream of falling, that's left over from when we lived in trees. Babies' grasp reflex is not important to survival now, but was when it was such a long drop to the ground. We've talked about piloerection before, the evolutionary origin of goosebumps. Time was when the same physiology fluffed our fur up and made us look larger and fiercer in emergencies.


Response to SGTex

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 23:42:57:

You have learned the evolutionary stories well. I did too, once upon a time. But they are vestigial now.


Response to Helen

Posted by Frank on September 11, 1998 at 23:51:16:

Please explain the "Scientific Creationist" reasonings for vestigial anything.

Response to Frank

Posted by Helen on September 11, 1998 at 23:57:02:

Vestigials, when they occur, are the loss of structures or the functions of structures. Creation says God created everything "very good" in the beginning. It has all been going downhill since, due to man's rebellion. The loss of many things, including parts and functions, is part of that downhill slide, and it is perfectly consistent with creation. In fact it would be predicted by creation as being in concordance with Romans 8:20-22.


Response to Helen

Posted by Frank on September 12, 1998 at 00:05:13:

Then why are whales punished? Why did they even have legs? So are you saying that all whales had legs less than 6000 years ago?
Be careful what you post Helen. Your answers are not doing you credit and are hurting your argument.

Besides, as this was an attempt at showing karl that vestigal structure would be an excellent case for "transitional fossils", I think you just helped me make that point.


Response to Frank

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 00:12:22:

Frank, I don't think that everything you label vestigial is. That point is probably needing repeating. I tried to indicate that in one of these posts a little while ago. But the loss of a structure or function, when it does happen, does not propel evolution in the direction it needs to go. You need to add structures and functions to that original bacteria, not delete them. This is the stuff evolution is made of, at least in theory. Once you have all those structures and functions, then you can talk about losing them.  But you need to find a way to get them first.  This is not a problem for creation.


Response to Helen

Posted by Rod on September 12, 1998 at 00:44:36:

You do realise that evolution is not headed in any direction?


Response to Rod

Posted by Jim on September 12, 1998 at 09:39:48:

You do realise that evolution is not headed in any direction?

Obviously as an impersonal and random force evolution can't "head" in any direction[since it's impersonal it doesn't have a head;-D sorry I just had to].  While evolution is ostensibly "directionless" it presupposes that competitive advantages are retained via natural selection. So like a wildlife arms race all species are adding new features to help them compete better. Evolution in fact does not deal directly with disuse, but as Helen said with gain.

As an explanation of how all life occurred, evolution must account for the gaining of complexity from bacteria to man.

Second Response to Rod

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 01:00:33:

And although you say evolution is not directional, the simple fact is that evolution is what is considered to have happened to turn a bacteria into a mammal. Now evolution may not have meant to do that, but evolutionists say it did, and thus a direction is established after the fact.

Which takes us back to my original point: structures had to be added to that poor old bacteria in order for it to mutate, through the years, and become a bear. The enclosed circulatory system, the musculature, the skeletal structure, the respiratory system, etc. all were developed at some time if evolution is true. Now you have to add all that stuff before you can lose it.

So, again, I don't see a problem for creation in the loss of structure or function, as that is predicted and expected. But I do see a problem for evolution in getting those soon-to-be lost structures and functions there in the first place.


Response to Helen

Posted by rod on September 12, 1998 at 01:25:28:

Do you believe that unicellular organisms have Transport systems?

Response to rod

Posted by Helen on September 12, 1998 at 01:46:54:

Unicellular transport systems depend on ER (endoplasmic reticulum) and the reversible phase colloid cytoplasm -- this is most entirely different from an enclosed circulatory system in which hemoglobin carries the oxygen and the heart pumps blood through the body and the heart in alternating patterns.

Or don't you think anything was added?


Response to Helen

Posted by karl on September 12, 1998 at 12:37:23:

Helen posted:

Why is the loss or degeneration of a structure considered evidence of evolution and against creation? It seems to me that what you need to be looking for are gained structures, not lost ones...

karl:

As I was working my way through this thread I was asking my self the same question. Why would they de-evolve the legs?

This is working against the theory of evolution. It seems as if the proto-snake that had legs survived just fine with them. I would think a half de-evolved legs on a snake would tend to slow them down and make them more acceptable to their predators.

The following article was presented as evidence of a transitional fossil;

*********************************************************

LIMBS ON A SNAKE FAMILY TREE, FROM NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC:

You have to look closely to see them in this artist’s rendering of a 95 million year old three foot water snake and in the fossil itself, but this snake has two very unsnake like features: inch long rear legs. Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta and Australian colleague Michael Lee recently spotted the legs in two specimens found 20 years ago in marine rocks on the Jordan River’s west bank. "Their full limbs from the hip down to two toes, but functionally useless," says Caldwell. An earlier study identified the fossil as lizards, but "my first glance told me they were snakes," Caldwell says. Most experts think snakes evolved from a group of small burrowing terrestrial lizards. But these marine fossils have led Caldwell and Lee to offer another closest relative: mosasaurs, giant swimming lizards.

*********************************************************

The main question is, what is the fossil that Caldwell is talking about. Scientist have identified it as a lizard for 20 years now Caldwell comes along and acts like he has something brand new. In reality the fossil has already been identified. It's a lizard, not a snake. Is there lizards today that resemble snakes yet have legs? The answer is yes.
Of the 17 families of of lizards there are six which include species that have small legs. In a search in the local library I quickly found four;
*Amphibian called the Congo eel,
*Three toed skink,
*Sand skink,
*Pygopus lepidopodus.
All of which had legs very similar to what was found in the fossils described by Caldwell in the National Geographic magazine. Should we find these types of fossils? Of course, There are species around today that could have made that type of fossil. Caldwell calls the legs functionally useless. The question is "why" when we see them in working order today?

Response to Helen

Posted by scott on September 13, 1998 at 16:35:50:

How would one determine when there has been a gain of a structure? Person X might seem really healthy, but do we cut him/her open to see if they have some new structure responsible for it? There might be creatures running around right now - even us - with 'new' structures (relative to our/their recent ancestors) - but how do we determine if a structure is new? What if a new structure is not beneficial? What you're doing is setting up silly requirements based on the caricature of evolution that you've been spoon fed in the pews and then claiming victory when nothing shows up (surprise!) to 'support' your caricature. Say people started being born with another thumb. Would you consider that beneficial? Or would it be a hindrance? If it turned out to be beneficial would you consider that an 'act of evolution?' Or, should it turn out to be more hassle than its worth, would you then consider it the result of the fall?


Response to Helen

Posted by Pat on September 13, 1998 at 22:20:47:

All that matters is an increase in fitness. All structures require resources to maintain. Hence those that are not used, tend to be reduced or lost.

 

 

 

 
 
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