Dino feathers in amber claim scientists, according to articles in BBC News, National Geographic and ScienceDaily 8 December 2016, and Current Biology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.008.

A group of scientists from China, Canada and UK have studied a piece of amber containing a small row of vertebral bones covered in fine feather-like filaments, which they claim is a “feathered dinosaur tail with primitive plumage”. The amber was found in Kachin State, in north-eastern Burma (Myanmar) and is dated as Mid-Cretaceous, approximately 99 million years old. The “tail” is 36.73 mm (1.45 inches) long, and contains eight tiny vertebral bones.

Ryan McKellar, from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada commented: “We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod or pygostyle as in modern birds and their closest relatives. Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side. In other words, the feathers definitely are those of a dinosaur not a prehistoric bird”.

The researchers suggest the dinosaur was a juvenile coelurosaur and would have been about the size of a sparrow. They claim it was not a modern bird because they estimate it had more than 25 tail vertebrae, although, they admit in the supplementary information to their report that some now proven fossil birds such as Archaeopteryx and Jeholornis had long tails. They also noted the vertebrae had a groove similar to that seen in some dinosaurs, but they also admit “the possibility of its presence in the two known long-tailed birds Archaeopteryx and Jeholornis cannot be excluded”.

The feathers are very small and fine, consisting of a central shaft with loosely arranged filaments branching from either side forming a frond-like structure. The researchers suggest: “The open, flexible structure of these feathers is more analogous to modern ornamental feathers than to flight feathers”.

BBC, National Geographic, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: These scientists have found a few tiny vertebrae and some very tiny feathers, but are a long way from finding a feathered dinosaur. The miniscule size of the specimen containing the vertebrae and feathers of 36.73 mm (1.45 inches) is not clear from media reports, none of which we could find showed any scale bars to indicate size. Scale was however in the original report in Current Biology. At the time of publication of this newsletter the original article was accessible on the Current Biology website at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.008.

As the researchers admit, there are fully feathered creatures in the fossil record that are different from living birds, but are not dinosaurs either. Therefore, it is possible that this specimen is from a baby of one these creatures, and the “open flexible structures” are tiny downy feathers that baby birds have. Perhaps again it is time to think of the best description ever of that fossil Archaeopteryx was the platypus of the bird world, a unique combination of non-unique features, and no help to evolution whatsoever.

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 24
14 December 2016
Creation Research Australia

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