Dino Fossils Generate Overblown Claims
04/10/2006), inventing feathers out of thin air. This time, it was justified on the basis of a new paper in Nature that claims to remove an obstacle in the dinosaur-bird evolution story.1 Doubters had pointed to differences in the three forward-pointing toes. With dinosaurs, it was toes 1, 2 and 3 that were retained; while in birds, it was toes 2, 3 and 4. The new fossil Limusaurus inextricabilis found in China shows 4 toes:
“So here you have a form that’s reduced the first finger, and it is right in this period of transition in the evolution of theropods,” Clark said.
The find helps fill in what had been seen as a “chink” in the otherwise widely supported theory that birds descended from dinosaurs, said Hans Dieter Sues, a paleontologist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who was not involved in the research.
“Having a fossil that shows that there are three digits plus this sort of little residual digit … is almost a perfect structural intermediate” linking theropods and birds, he said.
Perhaps this is why National Geographic felt justified in feathering their artwork. The paper argues that researchers may have simply mislabeled the digits. With birds, the developmental stages can be observed; this is not possible with dinosaurs. The tale of the toes, however, does nothing to remove other chinks in the dinosaur-to-bird theory: namely, theropods have lizard-hips instead of bird-hips, and birds have an immobile femur that is essential to proper function of the unique avian lung (see 06/09/2009). The present article only relates to how nubs that turn into toes are to be numbered. PhysOrg used the same paper to tell the “story of finger evolution.”
National Geographic reported on another fossil dinosaur named Psittacosaurus gobiensis. Apparently some dinosaurs felt like a nut. They deduced from the beak and skull that it had the force to crack hard nuts. Without answering how all the structural changes occurred through an evolutionary mechanism, the article simply stated that evolution happens when the opportunity arises: “animals that take advantage of their environments—in this case, eating what few other animals could—have plentiful resources and are therefore more likely to branch into more species.” Evolutionarily speaking, good things happen to those who take advantage of their environments.
Speaking of birds, Live Science and Science Daily talked about how big a bird can get. Argentavis magnificens was as big as a Cessna airplane. Scientists think that the limiting factor was how long it took for the bird to molt (i.e., replace its flight feathers, which most birds do annually or semi-annually). Feathers wear out from exposure to ultraviolet rays and bacteria. Argentavis, they speculated, might have molted during one long fast each year. These giant birds seem to exceed the weight limits for feathered flight. They weighed around 150 pounds and had a wingspan of 23 feet. The wingspan of today’s largest living flyer, the California condor, is about 10 feet. The article on Science Daily shows a handsome bald eagle in flight. Eagle wings can span 90 inches – one-third that of Argentavis, the record holder.
1. Xu, Clark et al, “A Jurassic ceratosaur from China helps clarify avian digital homologies,” Nature 459, 940-944 (18 June 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08124.
Remember that Darwinians are not above lying and distorting evidence to promote their agenda. For decades, National Geographic has been adept at misleading the public with the power of suggestion and visualization. Stay on your toes; forewarned is forewinged.