DID DINOSAURS HAVE FEATHERS?

I’m cheating here, summarizing an article published in the June 2012 issue of “Acts and Facts”, which is a free publication of the “Institute for Creation Research”, or “ICR”.

The article, written by Frank Sherwin and Brian Thomas, was prompted by a recent fossil find in China which is said to be “another” specimen of a fossilized dinosaur complete with feathers. The implication of course is that these creatures were mid way between being dinosaurs and birds.

The animal, named “Yutyrannus huali” is said to be a “gigantic feathered dinosaur”, “the largest yet found”. Such were the headlines.

However, when you start to read below the headlines, or to listen to the information following the sensational TV announcements, you find that the “feathers” are subsequently called “feather-like structures” or something rather more technical, scientific-sounding, and impressive, such as “protofeathers”.

The article’s authors point out the major, and huge, differences between what has been found and real, actual bird feathers as we know them. For example, real bird feathers have semi-hollow cores and branching barbs, and the fossil’s filaments do not.

Further, neither dinosaur skin impressions nor original dinosaur skin has follicles similar to those that produce feathers in birds.

The Yutyrannus huali was a Chinese tyrannosaur. Somehow I just can’t picture a tyrannosaur – a “gigantic feathered dinosaur”, perching in a tree or on a cliff edge, leaping into the air, and then gliding gracefully to the ground, even if it had managed to climb the tree in a desperate search for food.

Sherwin and Thomas state that the so-called “feathers” are more logically interpreted as being fossilized fragments of partly decayed skin.

Skin contains collagen protein fibers that decay more quickly than the soluble biomaterials that surround them.  In an environment such as the Flood of Noah’s day, the dinosaurs would have begun rotting while being transported by the waters. The soluble flesh rotted first. The collagen fibers would have soon rotted too, “but the surrounding mud or wet sand quickly turned to dry rock that inhibited growth of collagen-eating microbes”.

The authors give an example of a 2005 comparison of partially decayed skin from a variety of animal carcasses with dinosaur “feathers”. The evolutionary authors of the study said that calling dinosaur fossil structures “feathers” is misleading.

Of course, Archeopteryx is the famous alleged link via theropod dinosaurs between reptiles and birds. Sherwin and Thomas point out some of the major differences between the structure of a bird and that of a theropod, saying that “no evidence supports the story that such fully formed wings (as the archaeopteryx had) with fused clavicles ‘evolved from’ the tiny., clavicle-free theropod forelimbs”. They state confidently that Archeopteryx was all bird, without a single transitional structure.

One thing that dinosaur-feather believers choose to ignore is that fossil bird prints have been found in rock layers supposedly containing some of the “earliest” dinosaurs.

The authors make the point that even if a true feathered dinosaur were to be found one day, it would not solve evolution’s huge problem of converting a reptile skeleton into that of a bird.

Dinosaurs and birds were created as distinct “kinds” at the beginning of all life as recorded in the early chapters of Genesis.

For the full article complete with pictures, and its references, follow this link:

http://www.icr.org/article/did-some-dinosaurs-really-have-feathers/

To peruse ICR’s entire inspiring and informative web site, which includes articles on many contemporary subjects in the creation/ evolution debate, try this one:

http://www.icr.org/

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3 thoughts on “DID DINOSAURS HAVE FEATHERS?

  1. Excuse me, but in Archaeopteryx there certainly are transitional structures. Of course Archaeopteryx is a bird, but it has no beak like birds we know have. Moreover, it has teeth. Now try and find any bird living today with teeth, you won’t succeed.
    Besides this, you say that you cannot imagine a T-rex gliding through the air after having climbed a tree. Apart from that what you can imagine is no proof for what is or was, feathers on tyrannosaurids like Yutyrannus huali may not have had a function in flying. Actually, to fly you need asymmetrical feathers and the found feathers on Yutyrannus are more plume like (like on young ducklings). So these feathers might have had a function in thermal insulation (again like feathers on young ducklings).
    In addition to this, Yutyrannus huali and Archeopteryx are not the only species for which fossilized feathers have been found. The record of fossil feathers is expanding as we speak. Try finding some info on for example species like Sinosauropteryx, Beipiaosaurus, Microraptor, Shuvuuia, Caudipteryx, Sinornithosaurus and dromeaosaurs. In these species, feathers are found varying from very primitive proto-feathers which look like single hairs, to plume-feathers, to pennaceous feathers (feathers with a rachis (=main shaft) and loose brancing barbs), to closed pennaceous feathers (feathers with a rachis and connected branching barbs), to asymmetrical closed pennaceous feathers (as in Archaeopteryx and in modern birds). And not coincidentally, if you project these feather types on the proposed fylogenetic tree of dinosaurs, you see a development of the most simple primitive feather (the hair-like feathers) towards the asymmetrical pennaceous feather in order of complexity.
    A nice overview is given by Prum & Brush and I can recommend reading it: http://www.yale.edu/eeb/prum/pdf/Prum_n_Brush_2002.pdf
    Although in that paper they doubt scale to feather evolution models, it might very well be the case that scales formed the basis for feather evolution.
    I would very much like to hear a reaction from you.

    Sincerely,
    Sjors van Broekhuizen from the Netherlands

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I have no intention of spending large amounts of time going into the minutia of your points, and I will certainly not get into an argument with anyone. I will only say that each year, even now, large numbers of species of animals become extinct. Over the centuries and the millenia that adds up to a lot of creatures that we do not see in our world today which did once exist, with a lot of features that animals of today do not have. This is not evidence for evolution. Even if some birds did have teeth, or if some dinosaurs did have feathers, it is only a sign that some birds had teeth and some dinosaurs had feathers, not that they were becoming anything other than they were. Perhaps you read in the link to the article that I summarized how some evolutionists have said that it is “misleading” to call these structures feathers?
      Dr David Menton, a creationist, has highlighted the huge difference between scales and feathers, and how any transitional structure would be completely useless and even a hindrance, but I suspect you’re not interested in his view of things?
      Birds, because of the inbuilt variety in their DNA, change into….well, birds, and dogs, because of the variety built into their DNA change into… dogs. Big deal! I have been to museums such as the Natural History Museum in London, where if anywhere, the evidence of one creature gradually turning into another WOULD assuredly be displayed – if only there were any – but there is no such display (and I don’t mean “artists impressions”). After hundreds of millions of years of supposed macro-evolution, there should be ample evidence on display for all to see. If you are so convinced of macro-evolution Sjors,, I suggest you endeavor to view the hard evidence for yourself so that you can actually see what you now only have faith in.

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      1. Dear Fuel For Faith,
        Thank you for your response! I was quite busy lately, but now I finally found time to work through my mail and send you a reply.
        The fact that species go extinct is part of the explanation of what scientists observe when studying nature. This alone is, like you state, no evidence for evolution. However, the order in which species occur is. There are no fossils of cats and dogs that orinigate from the time of dinosaurs and vice versa. Evolution would be disproved if someone would find a fossil that doesn’t fit chonologically – i.e. in the wrong period. This however, has never happened while millions of fossils have been found. I was already doing what you suggested, I am looking at hard evidence to base my views on.
        Now, I would like to respond on your remarks about feather evolution.
        And the view that scales are too dissimilar from feathers, that is exactly what was also posed by the researchers of the article I suggested (Prum & Brush, 2002). This however, is no disproof of evolution, it is only a difference in opinion in how to fill in the details of history. Another explanation could be that the first appendages that later became feathers originated to fulfill a bit a hair-like function. That is, excrete waste material in the form of surface protrusions.
        There are however, also a lot of scientists in favour of the scale-to-feather explanation and actually, there are some benefits for animals within transitional structures (as is opposed by mr. Menton). Scale-based models suggest that scales grew in an elongate form to be able to shield more solar heat. This is supported by the fact that modern lizards in warm climates have longer scales than lizards in colder climates. Then the scale would be divided to form a branched structure. This has a larger surface and flexibility and now the organism would be able to have more control of how much heat they shielded. This could have been the case and these branched scales may have formed the first feathers.
        With regard to myself, I’m still in doubt about the feather-to-scale theory as the development of scales and feathers nowadays is quite dissimilar. Then again, keratinization patterns in bird feathers and scales of reptiles nowadays shows a striking similarity. This is a nice puzzle that has not been solved yet. Fortunately more and more fossils of feathered dinosaurs are found and genetic research is getting better and better. Hopefully, the scientific community will reach concensus on this some day, based on good evidence.

        If you have any thoughts you would ilke to share or if you see some shortcomings in my explanation, I’d be happy to hear them.

        Kind regards,
        Sjors.

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