Grebe Left Imaginary Dinosaur Feathers in Amber

“Dinosaur feathers” are all over the news again, thanks to a paper in Science revealing feathers in amber found in Canada. But whose feathers are they? Inferences from other sources, not from the amber, were brought into the interpretation, even though the discoverers admitted, “There is currently no way to refer the feathers in amber with certainty to either birds or the rare small theropods from the area.” And modern-looking feathers of diving birds like grebes were also found in the same amber, leading to numerous questions about what can rightly be inferred from the fossils themselves. No matter; most of the media loved the evolutionary implications and trotted out their headlines that feather evolution from dinosaur to bird has been proven.

Big Birds Lived with Dinosaurs

The largest flying bird is the California Condor with a wingspan of 2.9 meters. The largest flightless bird is the ostrich, up to 1.7 to 2.8 meters tall. These are shrimps compared to extinct birds that lived with dinosaurs. A fossil jaw from a Cretaceous bird has been found in Kazakhstan. The BBC News said, “If flightless, the bird would have been 2-3m tall; if it flew, it may have had a wingspan of 4m.” The find raises questions about what scientists know about the age of dinosaurs.

Cold Dinosaurs Resembled Warm Dinosaurs

Cold dinosaurs were just like warm dinosaurs, scientists have found. Species living in the Antarctic, with up to six months of winter darkness, show no major differences in bone structure than those who lived in temperate climates. This was a surprise that falsified earlier studies. Whatever adaptations the high-latitude dinosaurs had did not show up in their bone structure.

Archaeopteryx Reclassification Raises Fear of Creationists

Archaeopteryx isn’t the first bird. At least, not today. It may be reclassified again, but Xing Xu, the man who brought a panoply of “feathered dinosaurs” to the world’s attention, has announced another Chinese fossil that led him to shuffle the bird evolution tree around, putting Archaeopteryx, an “icon of evolution” since its discovery in1861, onto a branch that includes dinosaur terrors like Deinonychus. At least, today. The backstory behind the shuffling of family trees, an upset that raises questions about everything evolutionists that they knew about the evolution of birds, is political, not scientific. Evolutionists are worried about how creationists are going to “spin” the news.

Dinosaur Protein Is Primordial

Scientists from 10 universities and institutions have verified that the collagen protein in dinosaur bone is primordial – i.e., from the dinosaur, not from later contamination. By first studying the molecular packing of collagen in living animals, and using X-ray diffraction modeling, they matched the surviving collagen molecules to those that would most likely survive degradation. They feel this establishes the authenticity of the protein fragments against claims of contamination and simultaneously offers a mechanism for its resistance to degradation.

Fossil Finds Feed Facile Fables

Remarkable fossils continue to come to science’s attention, yielding clues about past ecological conditions. Once in awhile, whole fossil specimens – even graveyards of many organisms – are uncovered, but most fossils are mere fragments. Placing fossils into interpretive stories requires knowledge of other fossils and comparisons with living species. Even then, the history of life is not directly observable. Fossils, being silent, can only show their current state; the lack of access to the past, combined with ignorance of all the clues, leaves room for alternative interpretations. Evolutionists, in their desire to fit fossils into a preconceived story, sometimes go far beyond what the actual fossil evidence is capable of saying – and some of their explanations border on the miraculous.

Flap Over Flight Evolution

Birds flap their wings when they run up ramps. It takes less energy than flying. This is uncontroversial; it is observable, and science can measure the energy cost. But for at least eight years now, Ken Dial at the University of Montana has been claiming that this behavior explains the origin of flight in birds (01/16/2003, 12/22/2003). When he first came out with this hypothesis in 2003, Elisabeth Pennisi in the journal Science said, “I imagine people will continue to argue about the origin of bird flight for a long time.” There’s been very little argument in the media over the years, though (05/01/2006, 9/22/2007, 1/25/2008); in fact, the BBC News just gave another plug for Dial’s hypothesis with no criticism at all.

Follow the Leader: Nature

Ever since biomimetics (the imitation of nature) gradually emerged around 2002 and really took off in 2005, it has not slowed down. Over 90 previous entries in these pages have reported teams all over the world seeking out natural designs for ideas. The reports have accelerated in recent years to the point where there is only space for short summaries that give a taste of the wide variety of engineering work taking inspiration from plants, animals, and even cells. You yourself might inspire some inventor. Here are a few more highlights from recent adventures in biomimetics.

How They Do It: Amazing Organisms

The plants and animals around us seem so ordinary, but they all are so extraordinary, the extraordinary becomes ordinary simply because of their numbers. But if you expanded the sample space to include the entire solar system, what we have in earth’s biosphere should astonish everyone. Here are nine notable fellow creatures.

Dinosaur Classification Is a Mess

Are there a thousand species of dinosaurs – or far fewer?  John Horner, a dinosaur hunter himself, thinks the classification is a mess and wants to clean it up.  According to Science Magazine News Horner is worred that “with almost 1000 types of dinosaurs on record and a new species being named somewhere in the […]

More Soft Tissue Found in Old Fossils

A reptile skin fossilized in rock said to be 50 million years old has been found.  According to Science Daily, scientists at the University of Manchester reported the discovery of amide molecules in “fossilized soft tissue of a beautifully-preserved reptile.”  The original paper, accessible to the public, was published in the Proceedings of the Royal […]

Amazing Animals

Three recent articles about amazing animals and fossils deserve entries of their own, but due to lack of time, will be corralled here lest, like strays, they wander off. Turtle navigation:  Wired Science has a beautiful photo of a marine turtle in an article about how they achieve a difficult navigational skill: determining longitude from […]

Bizarre Fossils Raise Questions

For decades, students have been taught that the fossil record shows a long, slow, gradual progression of increasing complexity over millions of years.  Scientific data are usually not so simple. Surprising youth in old fossil:  When you see the word unexpected in a headline, expect the unexpected.  “Unexpected exoskeleton remnants found in Paleozoic fossils,” reported […]

Fossils by Faith

Fossils are real artifacts you can hold in your hand.  The stories behind them are not.  How does science connect the one with the other?  Sometimes, it requires faith in incredible stories. Stay, sis:  Darwin portrayed a world in flux, with natural selection continually sifting and amplifying minute changes over time.  Why, then did Science […]

Dinosaur Bones Crack Open Surprises: Original Tissue

Nature is kind.  That’s nice to know; but what was the context of the statement in New Scientist?  “Occasionally, though, nature is kind and fossilisation preserves details of an animal’s soft tissue.”  But has nature been kind for tens of millions of years?  In an article called “Soft-centred fossils reveal dinosaurs’ true colours,” Jeff Hecht […]
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