Defining Dinosauria

Owen and Dinornis 1879

Richard Owen poses next to a Dinornis (moa) skeleton in 1879—but is it a dinosaur?

This group, which includes at least three well-established genera of Saurians, is characterized by a large sacrum composed of five anchylosed vertebrae of unusual construction, by the height and breadth and outward sculpturing of the neutral arch of the dorsal vertebrae, but the twofold articulation of the ribs to the vertebrae, viz. at the anterior part of the spine by a head and tubercle, and along the rest of the trunk by a tubercle attached to the transverse process only; by broad and sometimes complicated coracoids and long and slender clavicles, whereby Crocodilian characters of the vertebral organs also exhibit the same transitional or annectent characters in a greater or less degree. The bones of the extremities are of large proportional size, for Saurians; they are provided with large medullary cavities, and with well developed and unusual processes, and are terminated by metacarpal, metatarsal and phalangeal bones, which, with the exception of the ungual phalanges, more or less resemble those of the heavy pachydermal Mammals, and attest, with the hollow long-bones, the terrestrial habits of the species.

That’s how, in 1842, Richard Owen described “a distinct tribe or sub-order of Saurian Reptiles, for which I would propose the name of Dinosauria“, a group of organisms which needs no further introduction. But what, 170 years later, can be properly classified as a dinosaur? Former highschool science teacher Brian Thomas thinks he knows better than today’s scientists. He wrote on Wednesday, in “Four-Winged Dinosaur Definition Doesn’t Fly“: Continue reading

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Primitive Eggs

The Great 2013 Catch-upIn Evolutionists Scramble ‘Fossil-Egg Evidence’ (19 April 2013) Brian Thomas challenges the conclusions of a recent Nature paper, “Preservation of ovarian follicles reveals early evolution of avian reproductive behaviour” (not open access, but a Nature News article is).

Bird fossils do not generally ruffle paleontologist’s feathers, but some amazing specimens from China’s Jehol province—preserving eggs inside fossil bird bodies—might do just that. Researchers suggested that the bird egg features lend themselves to an evolutionary progression from crocodile-like reptile to chicken-like bird eggs. But if God made birds and reptiles according to separate kinds as clearly stated in Genesis, then they were and are unrelated. Which history does this recent evidence best match?

You can tell what he thinks the answer is right away, of course. Thomas explains the situation as he sees it: Continue reading

Pigeons “Confirm” Creationism?

A rock doveThe study of pigeons was instrumental in the formulation of Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolution, and using the same principles that underlie the theory in general he hypothesised that all pigeons are descended from the wild rock dove. A new study published in Science (pdf) used modern genomics to “prove Darwin right.” But somehow, through some twisted interpretation of the study, Brian Thomas has produced an article published under the headline “Pigeon Study Confirms Creation.” How did he do it?

Charles Darwin bred many varieties of pigeons. Some had differently shaped head crests and others had unique color patterns in their plumage. Darwin tried to use these superficial examples of human-guided animal breeding to support his false idea that nature repeatedly transformed one basic life-form into another. Today, over 350 breeds of the rock pigeon continue to showcase the plasticity of this bird’s feathery features. A recent study traced modern pigeon origins, and although the evolutionary investigators told some of the same wrong stories that Darwin did, three key details from their work clearly support creation.

“Three key details.” This should be good. Continue reading

The Domesticated Red Junglefowl

A Red JunglefowlA new YOM post asks “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

This age-old question really has a simple answer. However, attempts to answer it and to get around implications of the simple answer are often quite convoluted.

Yes, there is an answer: the egg was first, because there have been animals laying eggs for longer than there have been chickens. It’s simple, at least so long as you don’t specify that it must be a chicken egg. But for reasons that have been rather poorly thought out, the ICR insists the opposite was the case: Continue reading

Yet More Feather Denial

An Archaeopteryx feather
For their Acts & Facts article for June, Did Some Dinosaurs Really Have Feathers?, Brian Thomas and Frank Sherwin build on Thomas’ earlier feather denialism:

A new dinosaur fossil discovered in China supposedly indicates that it had feathers. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the fossil of the Yutyrannus huali, the “beautiful feathered tyrant,” was the largest yet found of the now famous Chinese “feathered dinosaurs.” The technical description published in Nature claimed that a “gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China” was recovered. But do these fossils really reveal former feathers, or does another interpretation, perhaps something as simple as decayed skin fibers, better explain them?

Yes, we’ve been here before.
Continue reading

Feather Denial

With the reduction of ICR News articles from five a week to three, Brian Thomas has been missing a lot recently. He didn’t comment on the recent hominin finds, for example, nor on the paper in Nature in March attacking the chondritic Earth model, for another. But he has found the time to write an article on that feathered tyrannosauroid, Yutyrannus huali, in One-Ton ‘Feathered’ Dinosaur? And while Uncommon Descent merely went with the Piltdown Man allusion “at this point, we can’t rule out fossil fraud either”, Brian is flat out denying the very existence of the feathers.

Head profile of Yutyrannus, the feathered tyrannosauroid from lower Cretaceous Yixian, based on ELDM V1001, by "Pilsator" from deviantart Continue reading

Microraptor

For Wednesday’s DpSU we have Is New Fossil a Bird-Eating Dinosaur? Brian Thomas has a wonderful habit of randomly disagreeing with palaeontologists about the classification of various bird-like dinosaurs. If you believe him, you’ll think that Caudipteryx has no feathers, that Balaur is not bird-like at all, and now that Microraptor is a true bird (and also, not a dinosaur).

The holotype of Microraptor gui Continue reading

So Why Does It Matter?

To begin my DpSU catch-up, I bring you Archaeopteryx Is a Bird. . . Again, from Tuesday.

This is a follow-up to Early Bird Gets the Boot: Researchers Reclassify Archaeopteryx. Basically, some other researchers disagreed with the previous group’s conclusions. They say of it that “this parsimony-based result was acknowledged to be weakly supported.” They ran their own analysis: “Maximum-likelihood and related Bayesian methods applied to the same dataset yield a different and more orthodox result: Archaeopteryx is restored as a basal bird.” Continue reading