T rex ancestor had “protofeathers” according to articles in Nature vol. 431, p680, news@nature and ScienceNOW 6 October 2004. Palaeontologists in Liaoning Province, China have found a small 1.5m long (4.5ft) fossil dinosaur with a head similar to Tyrannosaurus rex buried in fine grained volcanic ash believed to be 130 million years old. This makes the fossil nearly twice as old as T. rex, and the oldest of the tyrannosaurid dinosaurs. The fossil consists of a skull and a number of fragments of vertebral and limb bones.

One of the rocks containing vertebral fragments has some branched filamentous structures embedded in it close to bones. There are some similar filaments near the jaw bone. The scientists claim these are “protofeathers” – evolutionary precursors to feathers, although they admit they have none of the characteristics of feathers, such as a central shaft and barbs. The dinosaur has been named Dilong paradoxus which means “surprising emperor dragon”. Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, one of the scientists who described the fossil, explained they “added paradoxus to its name because it is counter-intuitive to think of feathers and a Tyrannosaurus together”. The large late Cretaceous Tyrannosaurs, such as T. rex, have always been thought to have scales on their skins, like living reptiles. Norell suggested that small dinosaurs needed protofeathers to keep warm, but big beasts like T. rexlost them as they evolved large body sizes, which would maintain their body temperature without extra covering.

The new fossil is also different from T. rex in that it had relatively long arms that enabled it to clutch food and bring it to its mouth, whereas T-rex forelimbs “had dwindled until they were almost useless”, according to news@nature. Oliver Rauhut of the Bavarian State Collection of Palaeontology and Geology suggested to ScienceNOW that T. rex developed a big head for attacking its prey, which would have been safer than grappling with its hands.

Editorial Comment: Amidst all the speculation about how this fossil gave rise to T. rex the evolutionists seem to have forgotten that shrinking arms and losing “protofeathers” is actually devolution, i.e. loss of complex structures, and does not explain how new structures evolved in the first place.

As for the “protofeathers” – what they really found were some fine filaments that look nothing like feathers at all. If evolutionists didn’t already believe that dinosaurs grew feathers and turned into birds there is no way they would connect these filaments with feathers.

Many may think that calling this fossil a dragon is rather strange for modern scientists. However, five of the six scientists whose names appear on the Nature article are Chinese, and the Chinese have always called dinosaurs dragons. Whilst working in a university medical school in Australia, one editor of this newsletter met a visiting Chinese scientist who said she came from the province in China that had “the most dragon bones”. Even the inventor of the word dinosaur, Richard Owen (1841), called the newly discovered reptiles “Dragons”. (Ref. Tyrannosaurs, dinosaurs, dragons)