Bird Breathing Dinosaur

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Bird breathing dinosaur found, according to articles in EurekAlert and University of Chicago news 29 September 2008, and Biology News Net and ABC News in Science 30 September 2008. In 1996 a team of palaeontologists found the remains of a 10 metre (33 ft) long dinosaur in Cretaceous rocks in the banks of the Rio Colorado in Argentina, dated as 85 million years old. After years of cleaning the bones and scanning them with a CT scanner the researchers found the vertebrae, clavicles (collar bones) and hip bones had hollow spaces with openings onto the surface of the bones that could have allowed air sacs from the lungs to penetrate and occupy the bones. This process is called “pneumatisation” and occurs in birds as part of their unique one-way flow system of breathing. The dinosaur has been named Aerosteon riocoloradensis meaning “air bones from Rio Colorado.

Paul Sereno described the air sacs: “They come around the edge of the body and go into belly ribs. It looks like the beast had a system of air tubes under its skin." The researchers suggested three reasons for air sacs in dinosaurs: development of more efficient lungs; reduction in upper body mass; and release of heat. Giant sauropods have been found to have hollow bones, most likely to reduce weight. Sereno suggests that the dinosaur was a “high energy predator” and may have dispersed excess heat via an air pocket system under the skin. However, most articles about this find, including the original report in PLoS ONE, claim the find is convincing evidence dinosaurs evolved into birds. Oscar Alcober, of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Argentina, commented: "Despite its huge body size and lack of a breastbone or birdlike ribcage, this meat-eater had lungs that already functioned quite a bit like a bird's."

ABC, Biology News Net

Editorial Comment: In spite of the researchers’ admission there could be other functions for the hollow spaces in the bones than partly evolved bird lungs, their own article and the news items about the find all concentrated on the evolutionary story of dinosaurs turning into birds. To the best of our knowledge, no-one has found any fossilised dinosaur lungs so we don’t know how dinosaurs breathed. Furthermore, although the researchers call this dinosaur a “high energy predator”, we don’t have any evidence as to what it ate. It is important to distinguish between what was actually found, i.e. hollow spaces in bones, and the beliefs as to how they got there, (diet, high energy activity, evolved into birds). The evolutionist often accuses the creationists of going according to a preconceived belief system, but this report is a very good example that all science proceeds according to the beliefs that researchers already hold, so you need the right beliefs to get the right answers (Ref. Reptiles, respiration, metabolism)

Evidence News, 6 May 2009

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