June 4, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Dinosaurs Wore Scales, Birds Wore Feathers

Interesting new fossils of dinosaurs and birds cause some rethinking, calling into question whether previous thinking was thought out well.

Un-China dinobird: Joining the fossils of extinct birds with teeth is a new specimen, so far unnamed, from Brazil. This one is being called a “Cretaceous bird” said to be 115 million years old. PhysOrg says it fills a “huge fossil gap” and places it after the “dinobird Archaeopteryx.” Live Science says it’s the first of its kind from the supercontinent Gondwana. It’s only 5.5 inches, long–more than half of that a tail of twin feathers that look like darts. That puts the creature in the size range of hummingbirds. Both articles call it a bird, not a dinosaur, even though it lived in the time of dinosaurs. The fossil is “exceptionally well preserved,” the article says, even in 3 dimensions of rock. It wasn’t found flattened like most of the other finds in China and Germany. A short video clip in the PhysOrg article shows the locale and some of the other fossils among thousands in the layered deposits: insects, fish, turtles and flying reptiles. One of the scientists says that possible traces of the original colors in the feathers are preserved in the rock.

Dinosaur scales: A new study of dinosaurs helps resolve the question of how many had feathers, or better stated, “integumentary structures” that are preserved as fuzz or fibers. Linda Koffmar’s article in PhysOrg is titled, “Origins of feathered dinosaurs more complex than first thought.” Researchers from Uppsala University, the Natural History Museum and Royal Ontario Museum conclude after surveying all the dinosaur groups, “It is too soon to claim that the common ancestor of dinosaurs had feathers.” Their analysis “demonstrated that the majority of non-avian dinosaurs were more likely to have scales than to exhibit signs of ‘feather-like’ structures.” Though the feathers on non-avian theropod dinosaurs are “uncontroversial,” the article claims, the research disputes the hopes of some that “proto-feathers” were ubiquitous throughout dinosaur lineages. Unless and until more fossils come to light, “Current data, for the most part, suggest that the common ancestor of dinosaurs was not feathered.

Dancing dinos: Jack Horner, the inspiration for the scientist in Jurassic Park, and the paleontologist who advises Spielberg on dinosaur science for the Jurassic Park movies, was interviewed in Nature this week. He says dinosaurs behaved “more like robins than crocodiles.” He pictures even T. rex perched on its toes like a bird, and says Triceratops is likely to have danced to show off its frills as a sexual display. “If you built a Jurassic Park, it would be more like the Serengeti than Jaws,” he says, suggesting that the filmmakers exaggerate the violence of dinosaurs. With Jurassic World coming out soon, Horner is clear that the futuristic plot goes beyond the science. That’s OK with him if it gets the public interested in dinosaurs. Horner’s lab at Montana State is currently trying to reverse the evolution of birds to get bird embryos to express long tails, snouts and other dinosaur-like traits; is that more scientific than Jurassic World science fiction?

It’s a dinosaur egg, it’s a bird egg: The famous fossil egg clutch from Mongolia that gave Oviraptor (egg-thief) its name in the 1920s was reinterpreted decades later to be the Oviraptor‘s own egg clutch, not those of a horned dinosaur, Andrew Farke says in a PLoS Blog reproduced on PhysOrg. Farke was glad when a horned dinosaur egg with embryo was found in 2008. He was, that is, till it was reinterpreted as a bird egg. “…things are never that simple,” he sighs, explaining why it’s difficult to interpret fossils. At least this reinterpretation (due to turning the egg around and looking at it again) is that paleontologists won’t have to conjure up convergent evolution to explain the origin of the three-layered eggshell. Farke is still hoping a horned dinosaur egg will turn up some day in a museum drawer.

Update 6/04/15: Speaking of horned dinosaurs, a spectacular new species with a remarkable frill has been found in Alberta, where no previous fossils of horned dinosaurs were known. Related to Triceratops, the new Regaliceratops peterhewsi is shown in PhysOrg with pictures of the facial bones and an artist’s reconstruction. Because dinosaurs with this type of frill and horn pattern were thought to be extinct by its time, evolutionary paleontologists are calling it a case of convergent evolution: “Taken together, he says, that makes this the first example of evolutionary convergence in horned dinosaurs, meaning that these two groups independently evolved similar features.” Convergence is also invoked in the title of the paper in Current Biology. Horned dinosaurs have been divided into two groups: the chasmosaurines and the centrosaurines. “A derived chasmosaurine, the new animal shows centrosaurine-like display features,” the paper says. “This marks the first time that evolutionary convergence in horn-like display structures has been demonstrated between dinosaur clades, similar to those seen in fossil and extant mammals.” Why is that? ” Convergent horn evolution in mammals often correlates with convergent social behaviors,” they surmise. “It may be hypothesized that Regaliceratops converged not only morphologically with Centrosaurines but also behaviorally, following the early Maastrichtian extinction of Centrosaurinae.” Live Science swallowed the convergence explanation whole. That’s a lot of convergence for animals not related by common descent. Maybe the taxonomy is wrong.

The unexpected discovery of Regaliceratops reinforces the plasticity in cranial ornamentation expressed in Ceratopsidae and highlights how much of their true diversity still remains unknown. Ongoing research will likely continue to reveal both increased taxonomic diversity and increased morphological disparity (particularly in cranial ornamentations) within the group and may continue to blur the suite of ornamentation features between the two subfamilies.

Britain’s first sauropod fell off a cliff… its vertebral bone, that is. The story is in Science Daily based on a paper announcing the find in PLoS One. Nobody is thinking it strange that this bone sat in that cliff for 176 million years and just now fell off onto a rockpile where it was discovered. In the Hell Creek formation of Montana, dinosaur fossils are frequently found on the surface or sticking out of cliffs.

The bias against creation research is clearly evident in a recorded phone interview a few years ago by radio host Bob Enyart with Jack Horner. Enyart raised funds and offered $23,000 to Horner’s museum to use however he wished if he would carbon-date the soft tissue that he and Mary Schweitzer reported years ago in a T. rex femur (see YouTube video from 60 Minutes). Despite Enyart’s pleasant and congenial offer, Horner hemmed and hawed on the phone for several minutes about why he couldn’t do that, offering excuses that “We’re still trying to figure out what it is,” before admitting the real reason: he didn’t want creationists to run with evidence that would support a young earth. You can hear the whole interview here (search for Horner).

Evolutionists get all the funding and Hollywood glitz to push the old-earth view of evolution over millions of years. Mark Armitage is still raising funds on his own to continue his work on dinosaur soft tissue, after initial help from the Creation Research Society. Armitage discovered and published finding soft tissue in a Triceratops horn. The day the publication came out, he was fired from his position at California State University in Northridge.

After more than a century of millions-of-years evolutionary hype, the damage to scientific credibility, Hollywood hype and many a paleontologist’s reputation would be too great if carbon-14 were found in dinosaur tissue. Carbon-14 decays far too fast for any to be found in a dinosaur bone—yet it has been found in coal, diamonds and other places where it shouldn’t be (see Enyart’s list). Unwilling to risk the crumbling edifice of time, evolutionists ignore, reinterpret, or suppress the evidence.

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