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Archaeopteryx was a bird-brained flier

8th August 2004

Recent research by scientists at the Natural History Museum in London demonstrates that Archaeopteryx had a brain very similar to modern birds, and was capable of powered flight and balance. This increases our scientific knowledge of Archaeopteryx, which shows that it was a fully-fledged bird, and not a transition from reptile to bird as claimed by evolutionists. Bird like features already known with this fossil include the presence of feathers and an avian lung. However the presence of features such as teeth, and wing claws have previously given rise to claims that it represented a transitional form half way between bird and reptile. Incidentally, the Hoatzin bird of the Orinoco river basin in South America also has wing claws that help it climb.

The latest research has been carried out by Dr Angela Milner of the Natural History Museum, who used the latest X-ray scanning technology, borrowed from the University of Texas, Austin, USA, to view the compressed fossil specimen in extremely fine detail. These images were then reconstructed using 3D computer aided design tools to visualise the skull case and inner ear.

The results surprised the researchers who were expecting something closer to a reptilian brain. Dr Milner told BBC online ‘We were fully expecting to find a dinosaur like brain…Instead, it was completely bird-like…The brain scan basically showed that the Archaeopteryx had all of the structures that allow birds to fly.’[i] This ‘surprising’ research has uncovered evidence that the semicircular canals in the inner ear, used for balance were well developed, and that the optic lobes, used for vision were also well developed. Both of these are requirements for effective flight, and found in modern birds.

While some secular scientists have claimed that the Archaeopteryx is in fact a forgery[ii], there is insufficient evidence to support this, and facts would seem to suggest that the fossil is authentic, although admittedly access to such fossils for verification is limited. The discovery of the fossil was announced by H. v Meyer in 1861 and purchased with 700 pounds by the Natural History Museum. Richard Owen, who arranged the purchase from Carl Haberlein, (who received it in payment of a medical bill) wrote up his description in 1863.

Owen was an extremely capable anatomist, opposed to Darwinian evolution and had no reason to suppress evidence. Thomas Huxley too had a chance to look at the fossil, and this partly led to his idea that birds evolved from dinosaur. However Huxley does not seem to have any involvement in its discovery or early description, and at the time the Darwinists believed the transitional fossils would be readily discovered given enough time. It was decades later when transitional fossils failed to appear that some evolutionists lowered themselves to falsehood and forgery, such as the Piltdown man forgery, which incidentally was believed true for some 40 years.

Other known evidence that Archaeopteryx should be classified as a bird, come from the presence of feathers, and pneumatized vertebrae and pelvis. These skeletal features indicate the presence of the cervical and abdominal air sacs, at least two of the five air sacs that are features of all modern birds. With evidence from bird’s feather and lungs, Michael Denton in ‘Evolution a Theory in Crisis’[iii] has demonstrated the overwhelming barriers that would need to be crossed in order to turn a reptile into a bird. Both the feather and avian lung for instance would require perfect form to be of any use at all, and with imperfect transitional forms the animal could not live.

Flight feathers require the presence of interlocking barbules to maintain the structure of the hollow form, which is comparable to a remarkable piece of aeronautical engineering in strength and weight. The Evolutionist Feduccia comments;

‘Feathers are features unique to birds, and there are no known intermediate structures between reptilian scales and feathers.’[iv]

Bird’s lungs are also markedly different than all other vertebrates. Avian lungs have unidirectional air flow, whereas mammals and reptiles for instance have ‘bellow’ action lungs. The Avian lung pumps air through parabronchi by front and rear air sacs. Air enters the rear air sacs, passes to the lung and then leaves via the front air sacs. Attempting to explain how such features arose through gradual change is effectively impossible because of the need to maintain life, and this evidence fatally flaws Darwin’s own challenge. Darwin stated;

‘If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modification, my theory would absolutely break down’.[v]

Denton comments in response to this challenge;

‘In attempting to explain how such an intricate and highly specialized system [avian lung] of correlated adaptations could have been achieved gradually through perfectly functional intermediaries, one is faced with the problem of the feather magnified a thousands times…The fact that the design of the avian respiratory system is essentially invariant in ALL birds merely increases one’s suspicion that no fundamental variation of the system is compatible with the preservation of respiratory function. One is irresistibly reminded of Cuvier’s view that the great divisions of nature are grounded in necessity and that intermediates cannot exist because such forms are incoherent and non-functional.’[vi]

However despite this accumulating evidence against the possibility of the evolution of bird physiology including that of Archaeopteryx, the scientists simply attempt to modify evolution to fit. Milner comments that; ‘In fact, the brain is so bird-like, that the flying process must have evolved much sooner than anyone thought.’[vii]

Conclusions

The research by the Natural History Museum scientists is of great interest to those who believe that macro-evolution is impossible, and that transitional fossils cannot and do not exist. It may be noted that there is also insufficient evidence to call archaeopteryx a hoax, and good reasons for scientists to accept that it is a genuine fossil. The evidence that Archaeopteryx possessed the brain capacity for flight reaffirms the existing fossil evidence, that Archaeopteryx was in fact a fully-fledged bird with feathers and an avian lung system. Although there is some physiology that is not entirely typical of present day birds, such as teeth and wing claws, it may be noted that other living animals appear to have oddities, such as the hoatzin bird with similar wing claws, the mammalian duck billed platypus with its bill, and egg laying activity, and the marsupial kangaroo.

Archaeopteryx shows typical bird characteristics with regard to possessing the avian lung and flight feathers. Both of these features are common to all birds, and need to work perfectly for the animal to live. Attempts at finding a transition process to account for the alleged evolution from reptile to bird, have never been demonstrated and may be regarded as impossible. A logical conclusion from this evidence would be to agree with Cuvier that in nature there are great divisions and that these are ‘grounded in necessity and that intermediates cannot exist because such forms are incoherent and non-functional.’[viii]

References --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[i] BBC News online, Bird brain reveals flight secrets, by Jacqueline Ali. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3535272.stm Accessed August 2004.

[ii] Hoyle, F. and Wickramasinghe, C., Archaeopteryx, the primordial bird: a case of fossil forgery, Christopher Davies, London, 1986.

[iii] Denton, M. Evolution a Theory in Crisis, Adler and Adler, Maryland, 1986.

[iv] Feduccia, A. The Beginning of Birds, Jura Museum, Eicstatt, Germany, p76, 1985.

[v] Darwin, C. The Origin of Species, 6th ed. Collier Books, New York, p182. 1872.

[vi] Denton, M. op. cit., p212.

[vii] BBC News online. Op. cit.

[viii] Denton, M. op.cit., p212.

This message was added on Thursday 4th August 2005

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