New type of dinosaur feather found, according to reports in Science News 12 Jan 2009 and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 20 Jan 2009, p832. Chinese palaeontologists have found two fossils of an early Cretaceous dinosaur named Beipiaosaurus.” They describe their findings as: “Here, we report a feather type in two specimens of the basal therizinosaur Beipiaosaurus, in which each individual feather is represented by a single broad filament.” The filaments are between 10 and 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) long and 2mm wide (less than one tenth of an inch) and are attached to the head, neck and tail of the animal. The fossils are dated at 120 million years old. The scientists claim these are the first stage in the development of feathers and an early stage of the evolution of birds from dinosaurs and their finding “supports the hypothesis that feathers evolved and initially diversified in non-avian theropods before the origin of birds and the evolution of flight.” The specimens add to an ever increasing collection of “feathered dinosaurs” found in China, but not all palaeontologists are impressed with dinosaur feather theory. Alan Feduccia, a palaeontologist and bird expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill commented: “Many of us believe that these ‘feathered dinosaurs’ are actually flightless birds. Are we sweeping important questions under the rug by saying that these [creatures] are feathered dinosaurs?”

Editorial Comment: This finding is a good example of the difference between what is actually found, and the interpretation of the find. If you didn’t already believe dinosaurs were developing feathers you would not call 2mm wide unbranched filaments “feathers.” Even though Alan Feduccia is an evolutionist we agree with him about the dinosaur feather debate. Some “feathered dinosaurs” have turned out to be flightless birds. A good example is a creature name “Caudipteryx”. When this was first claimed to be a dinosaur with feathers, Creation Research wrote an article pointing out that it looked more like a flightless bird. Several years later evolutionary scientists agreed with us.

Feduccia has also critiqued filaments claimed to be feathers on fossils that definitely are dinosaurs. After studying the microscopic structure of reptile skin and the effects of decomposition he claims fibrous impressions associated with some fossils are just collagen fibres from the skin. He also reminds evolutionists that Archaeopteryx, which had fully formed bird feathers, is dated 25 million years prior to the earliest Cretaceous dinosaurs that are believed to have started evolving feathers before turning into birds.   An article about Feduccia’s work can be found here. (Ref. fossilisation, theropods, aves)

Evidence News, 6 May 2009