December 1, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Bird Tracks Found in Early Dinosaur Strata

Either a dinosaur walked on bird feet
or evolutionists are way off
on their story of bird origins


It’s amusing to watch the reactions of evolutionists to out-of-order fossils. The latest example has them scrambling to imagine what kind of dinosaur would have left tracks identical to those of modern shorebirds. These tracks appear in South African strata dated 60 million Darwin Years before the earliest body fossils of extinct birds like Archaeopteryx. If diversified birds walked in the late Triassic, when theropod dinosaurs were just getting accustomed to walking on two legs, the textbook tale about birds evolving from dinosaurs faces serious embarrassment. How will they explain this?

Unknown animals left birdlike footprints long before birds existed (New Scientist, 29 Nov 2023). Science writer Ryan Truscott cannot say that “birds existed” that early, so he opts to say they were “unknown animals” that left “birdlike footprints.” (This conundrum recalls how evolutionists claim that Australopithecine apes made human-like tracks at Laetoli, because humans had not evolved yet; see 28 Jan 2022.)

Footprints preserved in stone in Lesotho appear to have been made by animals that walked on birdlike feet around 215 million years ago, long before the earliest known birds.

The earliest fossils recognised as ancestors of modern birds, including the famous Archaeopteryx, date back 150 million to 160 million years.

It means these birdlike tracks were made in rocks 55 to 60 million Darwin Years earlier than thought. The researchers, Abrahams and Bordy, took a closer look at three-toed tracks discovered in South Africa decades ago that were assigned to an unknown species of dinosaur that was given the placeholder name Trisauropodiscus.

“Our birdlike ones have a big wide splay in the outer digits, like a waterbird, and the toes were incredibly slender, with the central toe not really projecting far forward,” says Abrahams.

The general shape of the footprint is very comparable to other fossil bird tracks and also modern bird tracks, she says.

The scientists analyzed the footprint shapes in detail onsite, where other possible dinosaur tracks are found. They also studied sketches and casts made earlier. Nothing in the local fossil record is comparable, they say. Truscott leaves two options to rescue Darwin: (1) call it an “unknown animal” instead of a bird, or (2) claim that a dinosaur evolved birdlike feet by “convergent evolution.”

Unknown animals were leaving bird-like footprints in Late Triassic Southern Africa (Science Daily, 29 Nov 2023). Like Truscott, the writer of this press release from Public Library of Science (PLoS) claims that the tracks were left by “unknown animals” instead of “unknown birds.”

Whoever the trackmakers are, these footprints establish the origin of bird-like feet at least as early as the Late Triassic Period.

The authors add: “Trisauropodiscus tracks are known from numerous southern African sites dating back to approximately 215 million years ago. The shape of the tracks is consistent with modern and more recent fossil bird tracks, but it is likely a dinosaur with a bird-like foot produced Trisauropodiscus.”

Enter the convergence magic wand. Evolution is so flexible, it can put bird feet on dinosaurs! Anything is possible when you restrict yourself to Darwin’s timeline—the deep-time geologic column blessed by the moyboys.

It’s possible that these tracks were produced by early dinosaurs, and potentially even early members of a near-bird lineage, but the authors note that there could also have been other reptiles, cousins of dinosaurs, that convergently evolved bird-like feet.

The oldest fossil bird-like footprints from the upper Triassic of southern Africa (PLoS One, 29 Nov 2023). Here is the peer-reviewed journal paper by Miengah Abrahams and Emese M. Bordy of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. They explain what they found and how they studied the tracks that were first described in 1955.

Here, we present numerous, well-provenanced, Late Triassic and Early Jurassic tridactyl tracks from southern Africa, with demonstrable bird-like affinities, predating basal bird body fossils by c. 60 million years.

Of special interest is a line about what kind of bird makes similar tracks. If they were indeed made by birds, the type of bird can be discerned by comparing them to bird tracks made by living birds. The authors studied the size, gait and orientation of the tracks.

Based on the interpretive sketches and brief descriptions, the avian affinity of Trisauropodiscus has been hotly debated: some authors have likened the tracks to Anomoepus accepted to be attributed to an ornithischian dinosaur, while others have agreed with its bird-like morphology, likening it to Gruipeda which is attributed to plover-like birds.

A look at Gruipeda images on the internet shows artwork of shorebirds that could be walking on a beach today. Plovers are well-known migrating shorebirds. If you saw only their tracks hardened into stone, would you claim they were made by a dinosaur 215 million years ago?

Consider, too, that if actual shorebirds like plovers were walking at that location in South Africa 215 million Darwin Years ago, it would imply (using evolutionary assumptions) that the first feathered, flying birds had “emerged” many millions of years earlier. The “primitive” ancestor would have needed time to become “derived” into a bird like a plover that flew, migrated, and walked on beaches looking for food with its specialized beak.

Update 12/29/23: Paleontologist Gunter Bechly reported on this paper and concurs with our assessment that the tracks would be considered bird tracks except that they don’t fit the evolutionary narrative (Evolution News).

Two hippos kissing… or fighting. Corel Pro Photos.

Horsing Around With River Horse (Hippopotamus) Evolution

Here is another fossil discovery is giving Darwin headaches this month.

Earliest known European common hippopotamus fossil reveals their Middle Pleistocene dispersal (Science Daily, 22 Nov 2023). This press release from PLoS says that the earliest known hippopotamus fossil is virtually indistinguishable from modern hippos. Interestingly, the Pleistocene fossil record shows that hippos were common in Europe when they made their appearance.

This research reveals this skull to be the oldest known fossil of this modern hippo species in Europe.

These results shed light on the history of hippos in Europe, reinforcing the hypothesis of an early dispersal during the Middle Pleistocene and bolstering broader understanding of the deep history of these large mammals.

Reinforcing the idea of an early dispersal of Hippopotamus amphibius in Europe: Restoration and multidisciplinary study of the skull from the Middle Pleistocene of Cava Montanari (Rome, central Italy) (Mecozzi et al., PLoS One, 22 Nov 2023). This is the journal paper.

Hippopotamuses are iconic animals, often taken as representatives, together with elephants, of the savannah grasslands ecosystem, nowadays typical of the African continent. The presence of hippopotamuses is often related with warm climatic conditions, but this relationship does not express completely their ecological profile. Modern hippopotamuses are especially dependent on the presence of water, and hence indicators of humid conditions and mild winters. Therefore, findings of hippopotamuses in Quaternary deposits indicate the presence of water, in the form of lakes, ponds or rivers. Despite the long persistence of hippopotamuses in Europe, their remains are heterogeneously distributed in the fossil record, with a few nearly complete skeletons found in lacustrine or, rarely, fluvial deposits testifying to their unique bond with water bodies. The ancestor of the extant Hippopotamus amphibius, Hippopotamus antiquus, displayed morphological features interpreted as indicative of a pronounced adaptation to an aquatic lifestyle, as confirmed by dietary proxies.

Evolutionary paleontologists divide hippos into these two species, Hippopotamus amphibius and Hippopotamus antiquus (old, primitive), but the differences are minor, as shown in Fig. 9 and Fig. 10 in the open-access paper. In fact, paleontologists have trouble distinguishing them: e.g., “For the mandible, the only feature useful for a specific distinction between H. antiquus and H. amphibius is the morphology of the horizontal ramus in lateral view.” The teeth are almost identical: “Excluding the canines, dental remains show conservative morphologies, indistinguishable between species.”

It is worth stressing that only accepted a presence of H. amphibius since the early Late Pleistocene, basically attributing all Middle Pleistocene specimens to H. antiquus (= H. tiberinus). For other authors, the earliest dispersal of the modern hippopotamuses occurred ca. 500 ka. These contrasting taxonomical views pose difficulties in recognizing on what specimens the considerations on canine morphology have been based, and in turn to evaluate the reliability of the characters proposed by [ref 66]. For clarifying this aspect, the European Middle Pleistocene fossils of hippopotamuses should be revised.

Could it be that the proposed distinguishing marks of the two species are only variations within a single hippo population, or distortions of the bones after deposition? However the lumpers or splitters decide, the fact remains that modern or nearly-modern hippopotamuses appear abruptly in the fossil record, fully formed and ready to go. The authors focus on the fossil evidence for dispersal of these iconic beasts, but surely the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record shouts for recognition.



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Categories: Birds, Dinosaurs, Fossils


  • akerdoc says:

    Great article. I especially loved the statement “animals that walked on birdlike feet”. Seems like the only thing that walks on bird like feet are birds.

    Thanks all the great content on this web site.

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