December 12, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Is This Duck a Dinosaur?

Before swallowing the hype about the latest dino-bird fossil, ask some hard questions.

When something really unusual turns up, skeptical observers should not just take a scientist’s word for it. That’s especially good advice when the scientist has a bias toward a preconceived worldview of the past history of the earth. In this case, evolutionists tell us that birds evolved from dinosaurs—indeed, that birds are dinosaurs. A new ‘dino-bird’ fossil turned up after an unknown period of time in Brussels that supposedly first came from Mongolia. What is it? Laura Geggel says in Live Science, “This Dinosaur Fossil Was So Bizarre, Scientists Thought It Was Fake.” They dutifully published the artist reconstruction anyway, saying,

Caution: All they found were bones in rock pieces glued together.

An enigmatic dinosaur — which sported a swan-like neck, amphibious flippers and Velociraptor-esque claws — could walk like a duck and swim like a penguin during its heyday on Earth, scientists have found after examining its fossilized remains.

In fact, the remains, which were on the black market for years, painted such a wacky image of a dinosaur that paleontologists thought it was a sophisticated fake at first.

Naturally, the news-hungry organizations like National Geographic and Fox News Science quickly posted the same picture and interpretation.

A research team including well-known dinosaur hunter Phillip Currie did some analysis on the rock and the bones, and decided it was not fake. They published it in Nature with all the usual Latin, taxonomy and descriptions as with any new fossil, but you would have to dig into the Supplementary Materials PDF file to read about how it was found:

Originally poached from the Ukhaa Tolgod locality (according to associated documents, deposited at MPC together with the specimen), MPC-D102/109 resided in private collections in Japan and England for an unknown amount of time. In 2015, the specimen was transferred to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences through the French company Eldonia. Subsequent negotiations between the RBINS, Eldonia and Mongolian authorities, in the scope of the official cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of Mongolia, the Belgian Science Policy Office and the RBINS, led to the official return of the specimen to the Institute of Paleontology and Geology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences. MPC-D102/109 was incompletely prepared when it arrived at RBINS. Preliminary preparation under the supervision of PG allows us to certify that this specimen is not a composite.

If there was “preliminary preparation” to certify it was not a composite, like the infamous Archaeoraptor that laid egg on the face of National Geographic in 1999, what will ‘subsequent preparation’ determine? That’s not all; there’s glue holding the pieces together:

The block is crossed by several fractures, including one consolidated with glue: nevertheless, the sediment shows good structural continuity and all the fractures in the matrix continue within the bones (Extended Data Figures 2a-d). This indicates that the specimen is not an assemblage of bones from distinct individuals glued together on the matrix block: all restoration done on the specimen before our analyses was thus aimed at consolidating and stabilising the block including the skeleton. Minor portions of few exposed bones had been restored in plaster. In the skull, only the anterior half of both nasals and the anterior end of the exposed (right) maxilla, anterior to the antorbital fenestra, have been reconstructed in plaster. The rest of the exposed skull shows no signs of being restored, as also confirmed by the overall correspondence and symmetry with the cranial elements still inside the block matrix. In the postcranial skeleton, only some elements of the exposed hand were restored in plaster: restoration affected particularly the badly preserved epiphyses (proximal and distal extremities) of many elements and metacarpal I entirely (Extended Data Figure 3). Given that epiphyseal dissolution affected also the right forelimb that is still inside the block, the absence of epiphyseal bone in the exposed hand is not caused by restoration, and is interpreted as a pre-burial phenomenon (e.g., soft tissue decay and invertebrate scavenging that targeted the least ossified elements of the skeleton).

In short, there is a great deal of interpretation going on. Scientists are fallible. They can declare their opinion that this fossil is genuine, and indeed it may be. But before accepting their judgment, we should recall the critical opinions of liberal scientists who questioned the authenticity of some artifacts in the Museum of the Bible (see 11/18/17). Those criticisms concerned artifacts only a couple of thousand years old, not tens of millions like this Cretaceous-era specimen is claimed to be. Are secular paleontologists immune from being fooled? Remember, they only found bones in a questionable rock, not any of the non-skeletal remains pictured in white feathers in the artwork. The bones, moreover, are hollow, as in birds; so why are they calling it a dinosaur? Evolutionists have a vested interest in making dinosaurs as bird-like as they can, and birds as dinosaur-like as they can. They do this with ‘hominid’ fossils, too.

Sometimes, however, fossils throw a curve ball at evolutionists. That happened with platypus a century ago. Like platypus, it’s not clear this fossil is helping the evolutionary story. They wave the magic wand of ‘convergent evolution’ in their last sentence:

This lineage adds an amphibious ecomorphology to those evolved by maniraptorans: it acquired a predatory mode that relied mainly on neck hyperelongation for food procurement, it coupled the obligatory bipedalism of theropods with forelimb proportions that may support a swimming function, and it developed postural adaptations convergent with short-tailed birds.

Did this creature choose to evolve this way? Did it purposely ‘acquire’ and ‘develop’ traits that make it like a mixture of creatures? Fox News says,

It walked like an ostrich, had flippers and could swim like a penguin, had a bill like a duck and a neck like a swan but had killer claws and teeth like a crocodile, which it needed because it was a meat-eating dinosaur.

(Note: dietary habits were not observed.) In the same flock, National Geographic quacks,

More than 70 million years ago, a creature roaming Earth’s ancient wetlands may have looked like a duck and hunted like a duck—but it was really a dinosaur related to Velociraptor.

The man on the street will have a different answer to, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…”

This fossil may represent a new kind of creature, but certain questions should be addressed first:

  • Are there other paleontologists questioning the provenance of the bones?
  • Are there other paleontologists concerned about the glue and plaster, who suspect fraud?
  • Did the poachers of this fossil have a financial motive for selling this specimen?
  • What happened to it in the many other places where it was stored?
  • Why is this specimen unique?

On that last question, we should note that specimens are members of a species—a population that had to be large enough to breed and interact with an ecosystem. There had to be many of these whatever-they-were’s to exist. Where are they? So many unique specimens are coming from China and Mongolia, it should seem very odd that these same creatures are not usually found in other parts of the world.

We’re just asking. This may represent a great new advance in the understanding of prehistoric life. Before anyone accepts the artwork, though, some critical questions ought to be answered.

 

 

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