Caudipteryx, and Other Bird-Like Theropod Dinosaurs

I believe I’ve been here before.

When creationists talk about bird evolution, it is entirely to muddy the waters. They are prepared to say anything to make it look like the amazing evolutionary tour-de-force of bird evolution isn’t. In this case – in the article Feathers Missing from ‘Feathered Dinosaur’ Display – Brian Thomas of the ICR is claiming, against all the evidence, that a fossil dinosaur that he went to see has no evidence for feathers upon it. I can only guess that the (presumably fossil cast) he went to look at was of particularly poor quality, or his photo’s were, or both. Here’s another cast of the same fossil, from Wikimedia. Can you spot the feather impressions?

Caudipteryx fossil

They’re there alright.
Now that I’ve sorted out, what’re Mr Thomas’ argument(s)?

The Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas is currently running an exhibit called “Chinasaurs” that features dinosaur fossils discovered in China. Some of these fossils supposedly represent transitional species from dinosaurs to birds. But these “feathered dinosaurs” appear to be missing a key feature—namely, the feathers.

Yes, yes. I believe I just covered that. You’ll note that this is happening in Dallas, Texas, the same city as the ICR is located in – that’ll be why Mr Thomas actually went there himself.

Next, he quotes some scientists talking about how amazing the feathered dinosaur fossils coming out of China are. And they are, I should point out – and not just bird fossils either. He gives a reference to their website that 404’s for me, so I can’t verify context (but I doubt I need to here).

But rather than showcasing real feathered dinosaurs, the exhibit only offers displays that don’t provide any evidence for “the rise of birds from among certain dinosaur lines.” For example, one features a painted fiberglass facsimile of the in-situ fossil of the “feathered dinosaur”Caudipteryx. Oddly enough, the model had no clear indications of either fibers or feathers. Is this kind of display adequate to support such a key part of the evolutionary story on the origin of birds?

Just as I thought – a replica. And even that picture has evidence for feathers – do you have any other explanation for the clear line that surrounds the fossil in both the image I have above and Brian Thomas’ image on his page?

Caudipteryx did not have a bird’s keel bone or a bird-like beak. And unlike birds, it had hips that permitted free movement of its thighs. Thus, it was most likely a dinosaur, not a bird or a transitional form. No reptiles have feathers today—only birds do. Were any fiber-like impressions found on the original fossil caused by something other than feathers? Perhaps they were artifacts of the fossilization process, or partly decayed skin fibers.

So you admit that there is evidence for feathers now, but just want to explain them away? I hope you now see what I mean about them just wanting to sow confusion.

In fact, evolutionist Alan Feduccia reported that fiber-like features in fossils look just like collagen fibers from his experiments with decayed skin. If “dinosaur feathers” are not feathers after all, then the only evidence that could possibly be interpreted as favoring bird evolution would not even exist.

And that’s all I’m going to quote (there is a final paragraph after this, but It says nothing new). Let’s sort out this mess…

Brian Thomas refers to Alan Feduccia in that last quote. Feduccia is a key proponent of the alternative theory that birds evolved, not from birds but from another type of archosaur. It is certainly ironic that he is mentioned the paragraph after Mr Thomas gives his opinion that the fossil is “most likely a dinosaur.” Here’s a summary of both theories:

From Dinosaurs:

A group of theropod dinosaurs evolved feathers, whether for warmth or for buoyancy. This group split off into smaller groups (as you would expect evolutionarily), not all of which had any given feature. Some could fly, some had the ‘keel,’ some could move their hips. Only one group survived through to the present – those that could fly (generally), had a keel, could no-longer move their hips etcetera – and we call them birds. In the circumstances, many of the other groups – the merely birdlike dinosaurs – we’d probably still call birds if they were still around. It is important to note that both Velociraptor and this Caudipteryx are ‘birdlike dinosaurs.’ Archaeopteryx has also recently been ‘relegated’ to this group also.

There is plenty of evidence for this. Certainly, there are non-birds that do, undeniably, have feathers – examples include both Velociraptor and Caudipteryx, along with the truly amazing Microraptor. Wikipedia would have you believe that this paper found that “birds share a myriad of unique skeletal features with dinosaurs.” And, of course, there are the contentious ‘protofeathers,’ which I will get to shortly

Not From Dinosaurs:

Feduccia would have you believe that the big bush of bird and bird-like ‘dinosaurs’ are all birds, some of which have apparently lost their flight abilities etcetera. These evolved separately from dinosaurs, but then apparently evolutionarily converged on theropods, to explain their simularities. As I mentioned in a previous post, if Feduccia is correct, Velociraptors weren’t dinosaurs! Can you live with that kind of change? Forget Pluto not being a planet…

The evidence for this is thin on the ground. There is a fossil that is claimed to be the alternative ‘missing link’, but it’s also possible that it’s lying on top of a fern. Certainly, if the roles were reversed the creationists would be attacking this like anything.

Now for the protofeathers. I mentioned the arguments over this in my amazing soft-tissues “list,” at numbers 19, 21, 27 and 28. Basically, the question is whether features that have been called protofeathers really are.

What we have are structures that, if they are indeed the originators of feathers, would be much more primitive than what we see in the fossils above. Mr Thomas is being entirely disingenuous with bringing this up here. The controversy lies on whether they are feathers or whether they are just (mineralised) collagen fibres from the skin. Potentially problematic to the idea that they are protofeathers is that the same kind of thing can be found on other dinosaurs that aren’t considered to be on the path towards the feathered dinosaurs. On the other hand, pigment arrangements on them have been seen in such patterns as to suggest that they are not simply the remains of the skin. It is a puzzle.

I am undecided as to whether the protofeathers are real or not – I didn’t research them further than what was on the list, so I don’t know the state of the science. I will say that even if they aren’t, it has no real bearing over whether or not birds evolved from dinosaurs. The alternative theory assumes so much that we don’t know and has had to concede so much over the last ten years that it is not really a contender any more. It merely serves as a brake to stop scientists making wild leaps without supporting evidence. Certainly, whether or not birds evolved from dinosaurs has no bearing on whether they evolved at all.

Brian Thomas is totally out to muddy the waters here. I hope I cleared it up somewhat. Read the links I have given in the text for more information. And sorry for the lateness.

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2 thoughts on “Caudipteryx, and Other Bird-Like Theropod Dinosaurs

  1. Pingback: It’s Dinofuz! « Eye on the ICR

  2. Pingback: Microraptor « Eye on the ICR

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