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Feathered dinosaurs and the Disneyfication of palaeontology

The media encourages acceptance of these false finds with huge budgets dedicated to the process of Disneyfication. In the latest BBC1 series shown on the 4th September 2005, (8.00PM The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs), excellent graphics were used to promote the latest questionable science. Velociraptor was shown as half bird, half dinosaur with feathers on its short front legs, even though no Velociraptor fossil has ever been found with feathers.

The Sunday Times[1] has also recently reported that some palaeontologists are coming around to the view that all dinosaurs were feathered, despite a lack of feathered dinosaurs found in the past. According to The Times, Gareth Dyke from University College Dublin in a presentation to the British Association Festival of Science encouraged acceptance of this view, claiming that previous representations of dinosaurs are inaccurate. As evidence he cites feathered dinosaur fossils found at Liaoning Province in China, but huge question marks remain against such evidence with previous fossils from this area exposed as fraudulent.

The Natural History Museum has already had one short-term display depicting a couple of Velociraptors with feathers on their forelimbs. The same article in The Times reports that this Museum is now considering changing some of its other raptor fossil displays to accommodate these new feathery ideas. Sadly it wouldn’t be the first time that a British museum has presented false fossils as hard science, the Piltdown Man fraud being a case in point. So what evidence is there for dinosaur to bird evolution?

Archaeoraptor fraud

Archaeoraptor exploded onto the scene in a National Geographic magazine article in November 1999, entitled ‘Feathers for T.Rex?’.[2] This apparent fossil was bought at an Arizona show, and had a number of features that suggested a link between birds and dinosaurs including a dinosaur like tail, and a bone structure similar to birds, and more astonishingly the imprint of what looked like feathers. However, this fossil faced major criticism from others. Storrs Olsen, a Curator of Birds at the Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of Natural History severely criticised this find claiming that there exists;

‘…a cadre of zealous scientists acting in concert with certain editors at Nature and National Geographic who themselves have become outspoken and highly biased proselytizers of the faith. Truth and careful scientific weighing of evidence have been among the first casualties in their program, which is now fast becoming one of the grander scientific hoaxes of our age — the paleontological equivalent of cold fusion.’[3]

If that level of criticism wasn’t bad enough, the fossil later turned out to be fake, a compilation of at least two, and possibly five separate fossils. A Chinese researcher Dr Xu Xing claimed that the rear part of the fossil fitted as a mirror image to another fossil in a private collection in China. The front half was identified as a fish eating bird labelled Yanornis martini. [4] But old fossils do not die easily, they simply get recycled and almost overnight the back half of Archaeoraptor transmuted into Microraptor. The tail part of the Archaeoraptor fossil fake was subsequently stated in March 2001 as belonging to an extinct animal called Microraptor zhorianus.[5]

Microraptor gui

Microraptor gui was presented to the world in a Nature article, by the same Dr. Xu Xing who uncovered the Archaeoraptor fraud, and identified Microraptor zhorianus. This new find was given a claimed dating of 125 million years.[6] Microraptor gui was depicted as a four-winged dinosaur that used flight feathers for gliding. However, these specimens and their artistic impressions have all the appearance of Chinese Dragons and the evidence remains unconvincing.

Superficially the presence of Dr Xu Xing with this claim might suggest that this later research has more credibility than the Archaeoraptor fake. But all is not what it seems and five of the six specimens presented in the Nature paper with apparent feathers, were bought from dealers from the same area of Liaoning province where the Archaeoraptor fake originated and was purchased. This in itself places a serious question mark over such finds. The remaining fossil found by the researchers themselves in Liaoning province was claimed to have impressions of feather-like features, but nothing on it could be positively identified as feathers, and more likely the impression is nothing more than collagen fibres,[7] often known as dino-fuzz and present on many dinosaur fossils including ichthyosaurs and pterosaurs. The authors also admitted that some of the pieces of rock from the purchased fossils had been glued together wrongly, again suggesting malpractice.

Not all evolutionists have accepted the evidence for dinosaur to bird evolution found in Liaoning province. One noted evolutionist who dissented is Feduccia, who commented on the Archaeoraptor find that;

Archaeoraptor is just the tip of the iceberg. There are scores of fake fossils out there, and they have cast a dark shadow over the whole field. When you go to these fossil shows, it's difficult to tell which ones are fake and which ones are not. I have heard there is a fake-fossil factory in northeast China, in Liaoning Province, near the deposits where many of these recent alleged feather dinosaurs were found.’[8]

So according to Feduccia there are a lot of fake fossils in existence from Liaoning Province and even the experts find it difficult to tell the real from the fraudulent. This calls into question the whole field of dinosaur and bird palaeontology and casts a huge question mark over bought specimens from this Chinese Province. The motive for these frauds is financial, with allegations that there is a fake-fossil factory turning out specimens to suit the hunger of palaeontologists. Convincing, but fraudulent specimens can attract high prices for unscrupulous dealers.

Ironically, having identified Liaoning Province evidence as unreliable, Feduccia does in fact favour something like Microraptor as the ancestor of birds. He believes in the tree-down hypothesis as opposed to the ground-up view of dinosaur to bird evolution, favouring the 50 mm long reptile, Longisquama, dated at 220 million years old, as having proto feathers.[9] However, these structures are no more than elongated scales and not feathers.[10]

Bambiraptor feinbergi

This fossil specimen was found by Wes Linster, a 14 year old boy in Glacier National Park in Montana in 1994 and dated to 75 million years old. The theropod fossil was displayed to the world on 15th March in Florida’s Graves Museum. Although no feathers were found with the fossil, this did not stop the imagination of palaeontologists getting carried away. They were quite happy to depict the specimen with feathers or feather-like features.

Caudipteryx

Two other fossil specimens found recently are Caudipteryx zoui and Protarchaeopteryx robusta.[11] However, according to Feduccia these two should be considered flightless birds. Caudipteryx even used gizzard stones to digest food.[12]

Archaeopteryx

Recent research by Dr Angela Milner at the Natural History Museum using X-ray scans of the skull, has shown that Archaeopteryx had a brain and ear canal system identical to modern birds.[13] We have previously reported in these finds in Pamphlet 353, Archaeopteryx - a bird brained flier. This confirms the claims of creationists that Archaeopteryx was a bird. Feduccia agrees with this analysis, commenting on aspects of Archaeopteryx that are similar to modern birds, such as elliptical wings, asymmetrical feathers and curved claws suitable for climbing trees.[14]

Pterosaurs

The latest evidence from pterosaur research suggests that they grew to incredible size with a wingspan of 18 metres.[15] It is noted that they had a fine membrane skin and hollow bone structure for flight, much like bats, but palaeontologists believe that they had some similarity to birds. Indeed the latest artistic impression shows them as something out of a Walt Disney film with a bird-like bill with fierce looking teeth, cute eyes, feathery hair around their face, and yet bat-like wings. However, Dr David Martell of Portsmouth University commented that ‘Pterosaurs were beautifully engineered’ to a degree that would astonish aeroplane designers,[16] but palaeontologists struggle to place them in any tree of evolutionary progression. There is no evidence that pterosaurs had hair or feathers, or were evolving into birds, and once again any fibres are most likely collagen fibres known as dino-fuzz. Previous pterosaur research has shown them to be excellent fliers, fully adapted to their environment.[17]

Evidence that does not support dinosaur to bird evolution

+ Birds wings and feet have digits 2-3-4, where as theropods had digits 1-2-3. This is another piece of evidence that demonstrates birds did not evolve from theropods.[18]

+ Birds lungs are uniquely equipped for prolonged aerobic activity with air sacs, and a unidirectional flow of air through the lung. Both features greatly increase the efficiency of flight, but there is no evidence of bird-like lungs in dinosaur remains.

+ Birds flight feathers are highly specialised for flight with interlocking barbules, which enable them to be linked like Velcro, and with excellent strength to weight ratio. They are perfectly designed for flight.

+ Genuine fossils found with feathers are real birds, although sometimes these birds are flightless as for instance Caudipteryx. Dino-fuzz is no more than collagen fibres that form the surface structure of reptile-like dinosaurs.

+ The dinosaur to bird evolutionary dating is full of contradictions as well. Archaeopteryx is acknowledged as a full bird and dated by evolutionists to 150m years ago, a full 20 million years older than Microraptor gui. Yanornis martini, also recognised as a fully-fledged bird, is allegedly the same age as Microraptor gui, which allegedly is still evolving into birds. It is perverse to suggest that dinosaurs were still evolving into birds when birds were already present. Bambiraptor was claimed to be even younger than these others at 75 million years old, but that didn’t stop it being presented with a partial covering of feathers even though no such structures were observed on the fossil.

Summary

Palaeontology is once again bringing itself into disrepute by allowing use of Disneyfied artistic impressions to make up for lack of hard evidence to support their dinosaur to bird claims. Many of these finds are backed up with fraudulent fossils, but evolutionists are so keen to find evidence in support of their beliefs that they lose critical judgement. We believe that all dinosaur fossils claimed to have been found with feathers, are either fraudulent or instead have collagen fibres. Other genuine fossils with feathers are birds, sometimes flightless in nature.

There remains very marked difference between the anatomy of birds and dinosaurs. These include the unique bird lung with its unidirectional airflow, highly specialised flight feathers and a different toe configuration from dinosaurs. The timescale presented by evolutionists for dinosaur to bird evolution is also highly contradictory and makes a mockery of their claims.

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

[1] Jonathan Leake, Dinosaurs may have been a Fluffy Lot, 4th September 2005 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1764136,00.html

[2] Sloan, C.P., Feathers for T. Rex?, National Geographic 196(5):98–107, November 1999.

[3] Olsen, S.L., Open letter to: Dr Peter Raven, Secretary, Committee for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society, 1st November 1999.

[4] Hillary Mayall, Dino hoax was mainly made of ancient bird, National Geographic, 20th November 2002. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/11/1120_021120_raptor.html

[5] Helen Briggs, ‘Piltdown’ bird fossil explained, BBC News Online, 29th March 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1248079.stm

[6] Xu, X, et al., Four-winged dinosaurs from China, Nature 421 (6921): 335-340 23rd January 2003.

[7] See for instance. Sarfati, J., New Four-Winged Feather Dinosaur, 2003. http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2003/0128feathered.asp

[8] Comments by Feduccia; reported in Kathy, A. Svitil, ‘Plucking Apart the Dino-Birds,' Discover Magazine, Feb 2003.

[9] Jones, T.D. et al., Non-avian feathers in late Triassic archosaur, Science 288 (5474):2202-5, 23rd June 2000

[10] Comments by Norell, M. In: Wilford, J.N., Fossil Discovery Threatens Theory of Birds’ Evolution, New York Times, 23rd June 2000

[11] Ji Qiang, P.J. Currie, M.A. Norell and Ji Shu-An, ‘Two feathered dinosaurs from northeastern China’, Nature 393(6687):753–761, 25 June 1998

[12] Casey Luskin, Questioning Orthodoxy: Dr. Alan Feduccia Speaks on the origin of Birds, Report on lecture at San Diego Museum of Natural History by Dr. Alan Feduccia, 29th November 2004 http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1275

[13] See for instance Jacqueline Ali, BBC News online, Bird brain reveals flight secrets, 4th August 2004 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3535272.stm

[14] Casey Luskin Op.cit.

[15] Jonathan Amos, BBC News Online, Flying reptiles just got bigger, 8th September 2005 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4223658.stm

[16] Ibid.

[17] Julianna Kettlewell, BBC News online, Pterosaurs ‘flew like birds’, 30th October 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3227513.stm

[18] Casey Luskin Op.cit.

This message was added on Friday 16th September 2005

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