Dinosaur Feathers or Fibres?

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Dinosaur feathers or fibres? asks Feduccia, as reported in a news release from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 10 Oct 2005. A team of scientists led by palaeontologist and bird expert Alan Feduccia, have examined the microscopic structure of reptile skin and studied the effects of decomposition on skin and compared their findings with fibrous impressions associated with some dinosaur fossils that many people claim to be evidence that dinosaurs evolved into birds. They concluded that the impressions associated that are claimed to be "proto-feathers" are really collagen fibres from decaying skin. Feduccia commented: "Collagen is a scleroprotein, the chief structural protein of the connective tissue layer of skin. Naturally, because of its low solubility in water and its organization as tough, inelastic fiber networks, we would expect it to be preserved occasionally from flayed skin during the fossilization process."

Feduccia is the palaeontologist who examined archaeopteryx feathers and found they were like the feathers of strong flying living birds. He has been a long time sceptic of the theory that birds are the direct descendents of dinosaurs and pointed out that feathers are not the only problem with the dino-bird theory. It doesn't even fit into the evolutionary timetable. The fossils that are claimed to be evolving into birds are dated as early Cretaceous, approximately 125 million years ago, but "That's some 25 million years after the time of Archaeopteryx, which already was a bird in the modern sense," says Feduccia.

Further evidence against the dino-bird theory is the configuration of bones in the digits. Dinosaur "hands" are composed of digits 1, 2 and 3, bird wings develop from digits 2, 3 and 4. Feduccia commented: "If birds descended from dinosaurs, we would expect the same 1, 2 and 3 pattern." Although Feduccia believes that birds did evolve from a reptile of some kind, he says the feathered dinosaur claims are "the beginnings of the meltdown of the field of palaeontology". He went on to say, "Just as the discovery of a four-chambered heart in a dinosaur described in 2000 in an article in Science turned out to be an artefact, feathered dinosaurs too have become part of the fantasia of this field. Much of this is part of the delusional fantasy of the world of dinosaurs, the wishful hope that one can finally study dinosaurs at the backyard bird feeder."

Feduccia blames both the popular press and professional journals like Nature and Science for promoting the theory and making it difficult for opposing views to be properly considered.

University of North Carolina

Editorial Comment: Feduccia's analysis of the dinosaur-bird theory reminds us that ideas, even in science can capture people's minds so strongly that the evidence against them is ignored or rejected. Being popular, even in the professional literature, does not make a theory right. If Feduccia, as a prominent palaeontologist and evolutionist, has difficulty getting his views taken seriously by the mainstream scientific publications you can understand why leading Creationists have the same problem. (Ref. evolution, aves, prejudice)

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