I was always taught that the dinosaurs had long been extinct. Sixty-five millions years long, actually. The massive beasts ruled the earth for millions of years before their final demise and extinction (How Did They Die?). However, according to the evolution of dinosaurs, they still live among us. Actually, they are quite numerous and are found on every single continent. Except, the claimed dinosaurs are not the large, reptilian creatures we normally picture. Instead, they are birds.
There are two main school of thought on the evolutionary timeline for dinosaurs and birds. Originally, dinosaurs, reptilian as they are, were thought to be possibly crocodilian, or related to reptiles such as crocodiles. The other viewpoint is that birds arose from the group of dinosaurs deemed “theropods.” Theropods, a suborder of dinosaurs, were flightless, bi-pedal reptiles. These beasts have been said to share many characteristics with modern birds and therefore birds have descended from theropods. Wait, so my chicken is a… dinosaur? That is a crude way to say it, but according to the evolutionary timeline, yes. There have been large studies on fossils of theropods and modern birds to discover similarities between the two and possibly fill a gap in the evolutionary timescale.
Filling in the Gaps
This evolutionary idea has predicted that there would be theropods found with both reptilian and avian features. These so-called “transition” fossils would fill in the missing links and provide evidence for evolution. Several fossils have been claimed to be these “missing links.” Arguably the most famous of these fossils would be Archaeopteryx. (Image to the left) This fossil is amazingly preserved. So much so, that impressions of flight feathers all along its body can be seen. The fossil also boasts a long bony tail and sort-of claws along the wings. It has been dated at 150 million years.
Sinosauropteryx (Image on the right) is another one of these missing link fossils. This dinosaur was a theropod and was first discovered in China. Many of the claimed “feathered dino’s” come from this same rock layer in China. Sinosauropteryx seemed to show the presence of “proto-feathers.” If true, this would show the early form and evolution of feathers arising from theropods. It is easy to see the small markings on this fossil that are claimed to be proto-feathers. It was dated to the early Cretaceous.
If fossils such as these have been found, (there are a couple more as well. I will discuss some of them later) why is there still not only dispute among evolutionists where birds came from but also if birds evolved at all?
Birds, Not Dinos
Since the discovery of Archaeopteryx in the mid 1800’s, it has been argued if the specimen was actually just a bird and not a theropod. The skeletal structure of the specimen and the presence of flight feathers show that it could have clearly flown. In fact, the specimen’s name “ancient wing” or “first bird” is a great description. From what I have read, most would consider this fossil to represent the first bird in the fossil record. The feathers of the specimen are also extremely modern. That is, when compared to the feathers of modern birds, they are nearly identical. (That brings up the question: No evolution for 150 million years? Also: Where are the fossils that show step-by-step evolution up to the modern feathers?)
This first bird also has teeth and is therefore claimed to be reptilian. However, there are several fossil birds that possess teeth.The teeth resemble those of the fossil birds, not the serrated teeth of dinosaurs. So it is not impossible for it to be a bird. Also, the presence of claws is known to modern birds. The Hoatzin bird has claws on its wings and it’s not the only bird to have claws. An analysis of the specimen’s feet show a curvature to the claws similar to modern perching birds, suggesting it was arboreal (lived in trees). Other features, such as brain and ear also resemble modern birds (1).
Another fossil, a tail covered in feathers, has been found in amber. This tail was claimed to be of a dinosaur. Thus, it was proof of dinosaurs evolving into birds. This was stated because the vertebrae of the tail were not fused and even “bent” in one spot. However, this is not evidence at all since “modern birds typically have between five to nine unfused vertebrae in their tails.” So the vertebrae could be of a bird’s. Also, the bend of the tail looks like more like a break or unnatural bend as it is not curved but rather it is sharp in its turn. This tail, as those who discovered it agree is possible, could easily be from an Archaeopteryx or close relative (2).
No Feathers After All!
The claimed proto-feathers on the fossil of Sinosauropteryx have been under heavy scrutiny ever since its discovery. Major controversy has even arisen within the evolutionary paradigm. Many argue that the feathers are actually collagen fibers from integumentary structures. Another specimen of the same dinosaur was found without the claimed proto-feathers. Also, there are several dinosaurs not associated with the evolution of theropods and birds that also possess these structures. Going even further. fossil of different animals have shown these as well including pterosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and even a dolphin. Most likely, these “proto-feathers” are merely collagen fibers (1).
Problems with the Timeline
Several specimens that are either considered birds or more advanced have been found to be older than Archaeopteryx and even found alongside dinosaurs such as Sinocalliopteryx which are claimed to have come prior to birds. This is major a problem.
One such bird is the fossil known as Protoavis. This specimen has been dated to be 50-75 million years older than Archaeopteryx, yet is more advanced and more like modern birds (3). This doesn’t make sense. Because of its age, Protoavis should be more reptilian like, showing the gradual change from theropod to bird. This specimen is often argued as whether or not it is in fact a representative of an actual organism or an incorrect reconstruction of bone fragments.
Also, new fossils have been found of a Sinocalliopteryx specimen (A small theropod) that has been so well-preserved that its stomach contents can be observed. Within its stomach were three specimens of an animal stated to be “capable of powered flight.” (I.E. The dinosaur ate birds.) Not only were the birds able to fly, but they had beaks as well. This bird, Confuciusornis, is also 10 million years younger than Archaeopteryx, yet is considered to fully be a bird. This is not the first time actual birds and dinos have been in contact. The fossil Microraptor Gui, a specimen with 4 wings, two on its arms and two on its legs, was found with contents of a bird in its stomach (4).
So, fully avian birds have been found with specimen claimed to be prior to birds have been found together. How is this possible if theropods evolved into birds?
Another issue with the evolutionary idea of dinos-to-birds is the large difference in respiratory systems between reptiles and birds. Reptiles possess a system like that of “bellows.” That is, “the stale air is then breathed out the same way it comes in.” However, birds have a system that involves air sacs and hollow bones where the air continues flowing in the same direction. Archaeopteryx has been found to have had at least two air sacs as well, showing further evidence that it was a bird and not a dinosaur (1, 5).
A gradual change from the bellows system to the flow system would result in an organism that would have trouble breathing, if it could breathe at all. It would result in a hernia and would have “immediately compromised the entire pulmonary ventilatory apparatus and seems unlikely to have been of any selective advantage.” (6). So, the switch from a bellows like system to the flow system would not have been selected by natural selection as it would result in death.
An Actual Dino from a Chicken?
A study done in 2015 attempted to see if a manipulation of genes within chicken embryos could result in a face that resembled a dinosaur. They used an alligator’s snout to reference with. To do this, the study involved isolating proteins that would result in normal beak formation within the chicken. They then scanned the embryos and compared the bones of the face. They found that the premaxillary bones within the chicken embryo did not fuse as they normally would. These same type of bones do not fuse within reptiles, such as alligators, and a similarity was found. Thus, it has been stated that this is indeed evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs. This study has completed a sort-of de-evolution to get a look into the past. These chickens were not allowed to hatch for “ethical” reasons.
This seems very interesting and may seem like evidence for the dino-to-bird theory. However, the presence of the maxillary bones is not evidence for dinosaur to bird evolution as most animals possess them. The study itself compares skulls of animals such as mice and emus as well. Also, the study fails to state that while the bones may not fuse, other aspects of the skull are debilitated. From the picture, which compares the skulls of a normal chicken, the changed chicken, and an alligator, one can see the nostrils of the chicken skull are not symmetrical in size nor in position on the face. Also, some of the smaller bones along the side of the skull are much slimmer than usual and seem brittle. Other bones on the top of the beak are bent and misshapen. The problems even seem to extend to the eye sockets as their shape is off from the normal chicken. The study claims that the birds were not allowed to hatch due to ethical reasons. This is most likely because the birds would surely not survive. I would think they would have a difficult time breathing and eating if they were allowed to hatch. What did they think would happen if they stunted beak growth? The beaks did not form correctly and instead of resembling that of an alligator’s, they are misshapen. One can easily see this from the picture. The claims of resemblance instead seem to be from a dogma and necessity for dino-to-bird evolution. On top of it all, an artist’s representation of the dinosaur looking chicken shows the animal with not only serrated teeth, but also scales on its face. This is indeed a false representation as the study never found evidence of the growth of scales on its face. The eggs were never even hatched (7, 8).
The above evidence shows that the evolution from dinosaurs to birds seems more like a necessity to evolution rather than a fact. There are many problems not only with the dating and timeline of the fossil record but also with changes in body systems from reptile to avian. Still, in the face of all of it, it is held as fact. So much so that some fraudulent fossils were heralded as the key missing link on several popular magazines and journals without a second glance. Many scientists instantly believed it. It wasn’t until the initial discoverer of this specimen of Archaeoraptor found the hoax that it was revealed. Many of these fossils are bought in China instead of being dug up and are in danger of these problems. The theory of crocodilian descent is also under scrutiny and is often condemned by evolutionists. It seems as though the evolution of birds is missing a path of common ancestry.
I understand that the absence of a path at the moment or falsification of a currently held one does not mean another won’t be found, however, it seems that birds are fairly unique in many ways, instead of having arisen from another life form. If this is the case and another path cannot be found, it would match the biblical account of birds being uniquely created on the fifth day during the creation event (I understand this cannot be tested) in Genesis.
So, although my rooster at home may strut across the yard like a dino, it seems he isn’t related to Sue the T. Rex after all. I think I’ll let him down lightly. He’s been told he was a dinosaur for a while.
(I am attempting to get permission from BBC to use their photos for the artists representation and the skull comparison. If you want to take a look yourself, here is the link to their article: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150512-bird-grows-face-of-dinosaur )
- Oard, M. J. (n.d.). Did birds evolve from dinosaurs? Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://creation.com/bird-evolution
- Smith, C. (2017, January 14). Feathered forerunner or flight of fancy? Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://creation.com/feathered-forerunner-or-flight-of-fancy
- Woodmorappe, J. (n.d.). Bird evolution: discontinuities and reversals. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://creation.com/bird-evolution-discontinuities-and-reversals
- Catchpoole, D. (2012, November 13). Dinosaurs ate birds. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://creation.com/dinos-ate-birds
- Sarfati, J. (2009, June 16). Bird breathing anatomy breaks dino-to-bird dogma. Retrieved May 26, 2017, from http://creation.com/bird-breathing-anatomy-breaks-dino-to-bird-dogma
- Ruben, J. A. (1997). Lung Structure and Ventilation in Theropod Dinosaurs and Early Birds. Science,278(5341), 1267-1270. doi:10.1126/science.278.5341.1267
- Hogenboom, M. (2015, May 13). Earth – Chicken grows face of dinosaur. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150512-bird-grows-face-of-dinosaur
- Bhullar, B. S., Morris, Z. S., Sefton, E. M., Tok, A., Tokita, M., Namkoong, B., . . . Abzhanov, A. (2015). A molecular mechanism for the origin of a key evolutionary innovation, the bird beak and palate, revealed by an integrative approach to major transitions in vertebrate history. Evolution, 69(7), 1665-1677.