Big bird not-a-saurus, according to reports in BBC Nature News 23 November 2012, Wired Science 14 November 2012 and Palaeontology vol. 55, pp1293–1305, November 2012 DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2012.01195.x. A team of geological researchers have found fossilised footprints of a three toed creature preserved in mudstone in Chuckanut Formation in Whatcom County, northwest Washington State. The footprints were exposed following a landslide in 2009, and have been dated as 53 million years old, putting them in Lower Eocene era in the evolutionary timetable, i.e. after the dinosaurs died out. However, the researchers wrote: “In rocks of Mesozoic age, tracks of this size and shape would likely be interpreted as having been made by a small dinosaur.”

The 18 large three-toed footprints found among fossil tracks left by various small mammals and birds have now been identified by George Mustoe of Western Washington University as belonging to an extinct giant bird named Diatryma, though no fossils of this bird have been found at this deposit. The nearest fossils of Diatryma are in New Mexico and Wyoming, and when reconstructed indicate it stood over two metres (6ft 6in) tall with a large head and enormous deep beak.

This bird has traditionally been portrayed as a ferocious predator, using its robust beak and strong jaws to crack the bones of small mammals. However, researchers claim the new footprints do not fit the image of a ferocious predator, as the prints show a broad flat foot with a heel pad, and broad toes with small triangular claws, which indicate a walker, rather than a runner. These attributes, combined with the lack of long talons, show it was ill equipped for chasing down and grasping prey. Scientists now suggest Diatryma was a “gentle herbivore”, using its robust jaws and beak to eat leaves and fruit, and crack nuts and seeds. This fits with a previous finding that Diatryma’s beak did not have the characteristic hook that raptors (hunting birds) use to hold and tear their prey. Western Washington researchers suggest Diatryma was originally classified as a fierce predator because the first fossil was found mixed with bones of small mammals, and because of similarities to South American Phorusracids or “terror birds”. They commented: “The common belief that Diatryma … was likewise a carnivore is more a result of guilt by association than actual anatomical evidence”.

BBC, Wired Science

Editorial Comment: Did you note the comment “In rocks of Mesozoic age, tracks of this size and shape would likely be interpreted as having been made by a small dinosaur”. Since they have not found fossils of this bird in the Washington State rock layer with the footprints, there is no direct evidence a New Mexico type Diatryma made the footprints. So rather than consider the possibility that something that looks like a dinosaur footprint is a dinosaur footprint, they eliminate it on the basis of the evolutionary belief that dinosaurs died out before this rock was laid down. As such, this report is a great example of just how evolutionists use dating assumptions in telling stories about fossils.

The original idea that the giant bird Diatryma had been a ferocious predator was also an assumption without any direct evidence. It was based on the evolutionary concept of the struggle for life in a fiercely competitive world where the big and strong kill the small and weak. As the bird is extinct no-one has been able to observe its behaviour or see it eat anything. Finding it with bones of small mammals was never evidence it was killing and eating them. It merely shows that mammals and birds have been buried together. The new suggestion that this bird was a gentle herbivore is reasonable on the basis of its beak shape, but its temperament and eating habits are something we cannot observe either. However, it would be consistent with the testimony of the Creator that all birds (and animals) started out as gentle herbivores (Genesis 1:30-31), but after Noah’s flood, God gave man and animals permission to eat meat (Gen 9:1-6). Therefore, birds that already had hooked beaks and sharp claws, and the ability to move faster than others could have become predators. But they did not evolve from birds without these features. As the climate devolved towards the present, and the environment changed, birds (particularly large ones) that were unable find suitable food simply died out. (Ref. diet, ornithology, trace fossils)

Evidence News 5 December 2012