Dinosaurs ate birds
Published: 13 November 2012 (GMT+10)
Illustration by Caleb Salisbury
For years we’ve been hearing, from various authorities on evolution, that dinosaurs gave rise to birds. E.g.,
- 1973, John Ostrom, writing in Nature journal, revives the dino-to-bird idea attributed to Charles Darwin’s friend Thomas H. Huxley: “Inasmuch as the Thecodontia include the most primitive as well as the most ancient archosaurs known, it is highly probable that all subsequent archosaurs (including birds) were derived from members of this order.”1
- 1998, Paul Willis, writing on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website: “In a nutshell, the majority of palaeontologists working on the ancestry of birds agree that dinosaurs, particularly small theropods, are the grandparents of present-day parrots, partridges and pigeons. There are some detractors to this emerging orthodoxy but the dino-bird theory is supported by both the most widely used methodology (cladistics) and a rapidly growing collection of primitive birds and advanced meat-eating dinosaurs. A reasonable assessment of the debate would have to conclude that it’s all over, including the shouting, in favour of dino-birds.”2
- 2005, John R. Horner: “If there are any people left who do not believe birds came from dinosaurs, I would put them in the same group as the Flat Earth Society.”3
- 2009, Xu Xing under the headline Feathered fossils prove birds evolved from dinosaurs, say Chinese scientists: “This fossil provides confirmation that the bird-dinosaur hypothesis is correct and supports the idea that birds descended from theropod dinosaurs, the group of predatory dinosaurs that include allosaurus and velociraptor.”4
- 2011, Laurence Pringle in the book Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: “Some of the most exciting news about evolution today is that more and more of these ‘missing links’ are no longer missing. One example comes from the evolution of birds from dinosaurs—an idea suggested by Thomas Huxley, a friend of Charles Darwin. (A close look at the skeletons of a small dinosaur and a bird reveals that they have many features in common.)”5
To be fair to the supporters of the evolutionary paradigm, not all proponents of evolution agreed with the above (and many other) proclamations that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Most notable of these was avian paleobiologist Alan Feduccia. He and others spoke out publicly against the idea, pointing out the many difficulties with dino-to-bird evolution—which we were very happy to include in our many articles rebutting bird evolution claims. See Did birds really evolve from dinosaurs?
In fact, the notion that flight-capable birds could have evolved from any non-bird stretches credulity to the extreme. Given how long it took human engineers, with all their technical prowess, to intentionally design craft capable of acceptably safe, powered flight (and they’re still trying to emulate the landing and in-flight control finesse that birds have, in order to improve safety), evolutionists would be looking to invoke long time periods for their claimed time-and-chance processes to work their ‘magic’.
However, recent discoveries of the contents of dinosaur stomachs pose a gut-wrenching challenge to the idea that dinosaurs gave rise to birds. Because it now turns out that dinosaurs ate them.
“Capable of powered flight”
A fossil of the theropod dinosaur Sinocalliopteryx gigas found in Liaoning, China, was sufficiently well preserved that researchers were able to make out its intact belly contents.6 They were able to see the last thing it had eaten—a bird dinner. As the bird had only been partially digested (indicating death of the Sinocalliopteryx had occurred not long after its last meal) the researchers were even able to identify the species of the bird: Confuciusornis sanctus. This was a bird “capable of powered flight”—and it had a beak as well.7
A beaked bird capable of powered flight, living alongside dinosaurs. Living so close to dinos in fact, as to be able to be swallowed by them.
Did the Sinocalliopteryx happen across a Confuciusornis carcass, and opportunistically scavenge it? No, say the researchers, for two reasons.
First, the dino’s Confuciusornis dinner showed “a high degree of articulation”, i.e. bones still joined to each other, indicating that when eaten, it was “at least fresh enough not to have disarticulated.”
Second, that bird specimen was not the only one found in the dinosaur’s stomach. There was another Confuciusornis sanctus carcass as well, and “both were in a similar state of partial digestion”. Given that “remains as delicate as small bird bones have presumably short digestion periods”, the researchers conclude, logically enough, that the two Confuciusornis birds must have been consumed in fairly rapid succession, “in order for the first individual not to have had time to be digested noticeably beyond that of the second.”
What’s more, the dino’s abdominal contents included a third bird, in a somewhat more advanced state of digestion, which the researchers say might also have been a Confuciusornis. (Hence why the researchers refer to “at least two [Confuciusornis] individuals” [emphasis added].)
So, arguing against scavenging as the source of the three bird dinners, the researchers speculate that the “association of two or more birds is perhaps more easily explained by selective hunting than by the chance discovery of multiple C. sanctus carcasses” and “it is improbable that every individual organism represented within the gut contents was consumed exclusively as a result of scavenging, as true obligate tetrapod scavengers are rare.”
Speaking to the media, one of the researchers, paleontologist Scott Persons, put it more bluntly: “The fact that this Sinocalliopteryx had not one but three undigested birds in its stomach indicates it was a voracious eater and a very active hunter.”
A hunter. Of birds that could fly. Birds that didn’t just glide, but flew with powered flight.
Beware of ‘spin’!
The difficulties this raises for the millions-of-years dino-to-bird idea are obvious. No wonder the researchers (and others) were careful to ‘spin’ the findings in various ways, to minimize the damage to the evolutionary paradigm.
For example the researchers referred to Confuciusornis as being ‘primitive’—“the primitive avialan”, to be exact. They also said “Confuciusornis and other Jehol birds were not as well adapted for flight as modern aves”. (The term ‘Jehol’ is used by evolutionists to refer to all creatures represented in the fossils of northeastern China ‘dated’ to around 120–133 million years ago.) As the news media relayed it: “The primitive birds were probably limited to slow take-offs and short flights”, “had not yet mastered the art of fast take-offs”, being “slow-flying birds”.
But what evidence is there for that? None.
Anatomically, Confuciusornis can in no way be considered ‘primitive’ compared to ‘modern’ birds. There’s no basis for saying it was a ‘slow’ flyer, with ‘slow’ take-offs.
In fact, the authors themselves address the likely objection to their findings from their own evolutionary colleagues that “active hunting of flight-capable prey by a land-bound predator may seem intrinsically implausible” by pointing out some of the many examples evident today.
Foxes, for example, are expert bird hunters. As are many of the cats. “The black-footed cat (Felis nigripes) of southern Africa routinely ambushes and chases down cursorial birds before they are able to become airborne.” Servals (Leptailurus serval) are adept at “snagging fleeing birds midair.”
And lest anyone seek to deflect this argument by saying that dinosaurs are reptiles, the researchers point out that “monitor lizards and various snakes consume birds in both arboreal and terrestrial contexts.”
So there’s no reason why dinosaurs couldn’t have captured flight-capable birds, either. And in fact Sinocalliopteryx is not the first dino to have been discovered with bird remains in its gut. In November last year this headline in the UK’s Daily Mail aptly broke the news: “First proof of bird-eating dinosaur has scientists in a flap”.8
That news was based on a scientific paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which the researchers report on “a unique specimen of the small nonavian theropod Microraptor gui from the Early Cretaceous Jehol biota, China, which has the remains of an adult enantiornithine bird preserved in its abdomen, most likely not scavenged, but captured and consumed by the dinosaur.”9 Well, it’s hardly ‘unique’ any more, now that Sinocalliopteryx is known to be another bird-eating dinosaur.
And if the discovery of Microraptor’s propensity for eating birds was sufficient to put evolutionary scientists ‘in a flap’, then how much more so now with Sinocalliopteryx. Dinosaurs ate adult, flight-capable birds—one can imagine the angst this generates amongst the evolutionary fraternity behind the dinos-gave-rise-to-birds idea. And this is not the first time that fossil discoveries have upset the supposed bird evolution timeline. Bird fossils that pre-date their supposed ancestors have repeatedly put the evolutionary cart-before-horse, and in fact the Jehol fossil group has already been ‘re-dated’ in the past to try and salvage the bird origins claims and other aspects of the evolutionary storyline.
Try as they might, however, salvage isn’t going to be easy. That’s because it’s not the evolutionary paradigm that explains bird origins, but rather the biblical account of history. A history that says that birds preceded land animals (rather than the reverse, as evolution claims). A history that also describes a global catastrophic event (the Flood of Noah’s day) that beautifully explains not only the exquisitely preserved gut contents of the Liaoning fossilised creatures of the Jehol group, but fossils worldwide, too.
“If proof were still needed about the truth of evolution, the treasure trove of feathered dinosaurs found at Laioning [sic—Liaoning] in China would definitely be the clincher. … Laioning was created by God to show us all how much he hates creationists.”10
- Ostrom, J., The ancestry of birds, Nature 242(5393): 136–136, 1973. Return to text.
- http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/dinobird/story.htm, 1998 (accessed 2 September 2012). Return to text.
- Schudel, M., Dinosaur expert John Ostrom dies, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/21/AR2005072102218.html, 22 July 2005. Return to text.
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1215998/Feathered-fossils-prove-birds-evolved-dinosaurs-say-Chinese-scientists.html, 25 September 2009. Return to text.
- Page 57. For our rebuttal comments on this and the rest of the contents of the book, see http://creation.com/review-pringle-billions-of-years-amazing-changes, 22 May 2012. Return to text.
- Xing, L., Bell, P., Persons, W., Ji, S., Miyashita, T., et al., Abdominal Contents from Two Large Early Cretaceous Compsognathids (Dinosauria: Theropoda) Demonstrate Feeding on Confuciusornithids and Dromaeosaurids, PLoS ONE 7(8): e44012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044012, 29 August 2012, plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0044012?imageURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0044012.t001. Return to text.
- Dinosaur ‘ate low-flying birds’, Press Association, uk.news.yahoo.com/dinosaur-ate-slow-flying-birds-210445387.html, 29 August 2012. Return to text.
- Thornhill, T., First proof of bird-eating dinosaur has scientists in a flap, www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2064952/Microraptor-First-proof-bird-eating-dinosaur-scientists-flap.html, 23 November 2011. Return to text.
- O’Connor, J., Zhou, Z. and Xu, X., Additional specimen of Microraptor provides unique evidence of dinosaurs preying on birds, PNAS, pnas.org/content/early/2011/11/17/1117727108.full.pdf+html, 21 November 2011. Return to text.
- China’s Fabulous Dinobirds, The Science Show, ABC, 9 November 2002. Return to text.
To expand a bit on the response to evolutionists pointing out that only some dinosaurs would have evolved into birds and so the presence of non-avian dinosaurs with birds is not a problem: The problem is that we do have these fully-volant creatures alongside “primitive” or non-volant types, but we do not have an extensive fossil record of the more bird-like dinosaurs before the ones that are fully-feathered and probably volant. The excuse for this sort of thing, which has been around since Darwin first published his excuse-filled book, is that those types of dinosaurs just didn’t happen to be preserved in the “earlier” strata. However, this is seen to be a worthless excuse when we examine which creatures are found in the relevant strata, and find various dinosaurs that are not at all close to birds, although sometimes small, and many small lizards that could glide, but aren't even like dinosaurs!
Indeed so. One of the advantages of a website with about 9,000 articles is that a single one doesn’t need to cover everything ;)
In response to several of the 'so-what' comments above, of course, a dinosaur eating a bird does not falsify the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but that's missing the point, which is a shame, because it's rather a beautiful point. Evolution theory generally requires a certain something to change Exhibit A into Exhibit B, that something being commonly described as 'millions of years'. But here we have Exhibit A AND Exhibit B so close together in time and space that one is ingesting quantities of the other. What is missing? Not just the millions of years, but all the intermediaries that evolutionary theory demands should be present. The only feathered dinosaurs (selected for fitness over their predecessor, the dinosaur, who is clearly still around, still munching on them) appear to exist solely in the imagination of the evolutionists themselves, with the 'hard evidence' for them being the man-made, faked, archaeoraptor-variety, feathered fossils. If a fake, a falsehood, is the best hard evidence for the theory of dino-bird evolution, isn't it a wonder why more people don't stand back and say, 'Maybe we were a bit hasty in putting our trust in something for which the best evidence is a lie.' Maybe then they they could go off and consider how implausible, impossible even, that feathers could have evolved from scales, or the birds' unique respiratory system could have evolved. But don't forget:
NO INTERMEDIARY = NO EVOLUTION
Dennis and I have communicated separately regarding the cup of '‘oe’.
For the information of others, my reference to ‘primary axiom’ was picked up from Dr John Sanford’s book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome.
After the tight American election where one wins who so seemingly hates Christians, even a Bible Believing Methodist Preacher like me gets depressed. After praying much and careful Bible study I decide to escape a little and catch up on the latest scientific discoveries and their marvelous Biblical perspectives. This article seemed to me as an important discovery as the soft tissue in dino bones. God just keeps up his slow but grinding assault on their “science” so called. However, while the article was well written and documented a fellow Christian by the name of Wayne O., from "Down Under" said this. “For them, the primary axiom is beyond reproach - it cannot be falsified.” You know, I never thought about it like that. That is so so true. Thanks CMI for allowing the world to share. Wayne, we could have a good chat over a cup of joe.
Thanks for the article. I was once a very strong evolutionist supporter, very anti-God, anti-Christ and anti-Creation. Now as I read more and more stories and information I can't believe I was once so blind! And, I thank God that He found me and helped me to open my eyes! To the evolutionists, let me ask this: If you are faced with two possible scenarios to explain something, and one explains things as you see it very well while the other continually fails to explain without using "probable" and "possible" and "we think", which do you pick? Was it once not said "when you eliminate all the possibilities, whatever is left, regardless of how improbable, must be the truth"? Well, evolution continuously fails to explain without using "possible", "probable" and "we think" whilst the Bible history continues to precisely fit what we keep on seeing time and time again. Is it not time to say "God and Creation, however improbable (for an evolunionist), must be true"?
Keep up the great work CMI, I always enjoy reading the latest 'proofs' of CREATION!
Once again proponents of evolution rally to defend their primary axiom against assault.
For them, evolution is true in spite of any falsifying discoveries. For them, the primary axiom is beyond reproach - it cannot be falsified.
I wonder whether one proponent will break ranks and indicate what, in their mind, would falsify evolution as a valid theory?
for you guys. first what the article means is the birds have the same type of bounes like the dinosours(cartilago) and the point why cientifis spend all this money and time from the evolucionismo is because they want to push the theory to the schools and indoctrinate our childrens with garbage. This means is a spiritual war!! got it
Lev L said;
" The fact that dinosaurs ate birds does not negate the proposition that birds evolved from dinosaurs "
Logically, it also does not negate the fact that dinosaurs could have evolved from birds, but that doesn't mean we have any reason to believe it.
There is no rational reason to believe birds evolved from dinosaurs if birds were present with dinosaurs.
This article points to evidence that goes against the evolutionary grain. That this does not bother evolutionists only shows their ignorance of falsification parameters in inductive reasoning.
You seem to be arguing the following;
"If evolution was true, ANYTHING would be evidence of it, so no matter what you find, or how it seems it supports evolution"
Well, that's a dogmatic paradigm! Worthless!!
"For years we’ve been hearing, from various authorities (???) on evolution, that dinosaurs gave rise to birds." You do realize that SOME dinosaurs gave rise to birds, not all. Nothing in the article argues the contrary, they say that it should be remembered that "(...) Confuciusornis and other Jehol birds were not as well adapted for flight as most modern aves, and, therefore, likely required greater time to mount an aerial takeoff and escape." And that they are from the Early Cretaceous??? 125 million years ago?? The argument that you propose its like someone asking "if humans descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?"!!!! Again, nothing in the article argues the contrary (some Dinos and birds are related). And were is the article, for everyone to read. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0044012
Our article indeed specified that link in ref. 6.
Where is the evidence that ANY dinosaurs turned into birds? The evidence presented in the original paper is beautiful photographic evidence of the remains of dinosaurs 'exquisitely preserved', even to the extent that their gut remains are undigested or only partially digested. And those gut remains are so well preserved that not only could they be identified as birds/Confuciusornis but the order of ingestion can even be worked out on the basis of the degree to which they've been digested!
What killed these dinos, preserving them and their gut contents for scientists to mull over today? Such evidence fits exactly with the biblical account of history. No wonder this article is so unsettling to anyone who opposes the God of the Bible, and who erroneously thinks that evolution justifies their anti-Christ views. On the basis of the number of incoming comments from respondents hurrying to argue that this article is no threat to evolution, it has clearly struck a nerve!
Can you please post images of this when you can get them. Pictures are crucial as evidence. I am a teacher, an article is good, but pictures are better.
The original research paper by Xing et al. (our ref. #6) is replete with photographs, which can be freely viewed online as no subscription to that journal or login is required.
Dinosaurs existed for over 100 million years. Birds evolving from dinosaurs doesn't mean dinosaurs disappeared at that moment. It's interesting to see that dinosaurs ate birds, and I totally fail to see how this fact invalidates evolution.
To Mike J.: Yes there are theistic evolutionists. For instance, in the Vatican.
Please see the response to R.M. (above).
The fact that dinosaurs ate birds does not negate the proposition that birds evolved from dinosaurs. It has nothing to with the evolution of either clade or class.
This is another absolutely fantastic article! I love how you put it all together. The more information that we get, the clearer the picture gets. You could also include the research of Carl Werner that many common birds have been found in dinosaur rocks, such as: avocets, owls, cormorants, penguins, parrots, sandpipers, flamingos and a type of albatross.
I have an alternative evolutionary theory that could explain this problem away. I was struck by the fact that there are two basic dinosaur hip structures and one of them is the bird hip. It is fascinating that some dinosaurs have bills, like those of a duck, as do other creatures like the platypus. Putting it all together, I think, if I wanted to support evolution, that the dinosaurs devolved from birds.
There is something in that: evolutionary propagandists often claim that the evolutionary order they adduce from morphology matches the order of succession in the fossil record. But as shown in this article (and in the response to R.M. above), this matching order is not there. One problem with either evolutionary direction, though, is that the dinosaurs are alleged to have derived from the reptile-hipped dinos (Saurischia) not the bird-hipped ones (Ornithischia)!
"Dinosaurs ate adult, flight-capable birds—one can imagine the angst this generates amongst the evolutionary fraternity behind the dinos-gave-rise-to-birds idea."
Yep. None whatsoever. I fail to see why you think it might.
"Recent discoveries of the contents of dinosaur stomachs pose a gut-wrenching challenge to the idea that dinosaurs gave rise to birds. Because it now turns out that dinosaurs ate them."
This is the weakest argument I've seen here yet. So what if dinosaurs ate birds? Are you now going to claim that the fact lions eat gazelles rules out both of them being mammals? Pike eat perch; which one are you going to say isn't a fish?
I really don't see the point of this article at all.
1. "...it is highly probable that all subsequent archosaurs (including birds) were derived from members of this order."
- take note of the 'highly probable' phrase. Evolutionists have been using the probability ploy for ages. Their use of probability has no warrant; it is pure myth making. They're trying to road the coat tails of probability theory but have no right to do so. Their use amounts to giving a kind of pseudo scientific shine to guesswork.
- throwing the word probable about proves nothing.
2. “The primitive birds were probably limited to slow take-offs and short flights.”
- There's our old friend Mr. Probable again; whenever evolutionists get in trouble they invite him over to spin a tale for them. He gets them out of so many scrapes he's become indispensible. They invite him over to examine some data, he looks at it for a bit, and then says,"oh it's probable that..." He's a veritable wizard at spin.
3. "Liaoning was CREATED by GOD to show us all how much He hates creationists."
- With tongue firmly in cheek, I guess we could say that this would make Willis a theistic evolutionist.
All dinosaurs did not turn into birds at the same time. Some lines "evolved" into birds, others stayed dinosaurs. Any history would show an overlap of the time when both dinosaurs and birds would have coexisted up until the mass decline/extinction of all the non-avian dinosaurs.
"Bird fossils that pre-date their supposed ancestors..." The link does not substantiate that statement. It does not have an example of a bird fossil predating all dinosaurs (as opposed to just predating some dinosaurs or a previous earliest-*known*-avian).
I don't really understand your point. A dinosaur eating a bird disproves dino-bird evolution? Somehow, I don't think you quite understand the theory...
I would also like to point out that you show no knowledge on how the bird anatomy allows full flight. Instead of making blunt assertions, this article could try to find out why the scientists claimed what they did.
Thirdly, scientists are NOT covering up their tracks, otherwise creation.com would never have found out about it.
This comment reflects the sentiment of a number of respondents challenging us with "So where's the problem (for evolution)?"
I would ask such correspondents to seriously consider whether they would ever acknowledge any problem for evolution? Historically, there's been example after example of evidence that has utterly overturned the evolutionary storyline of the day, e.g. grass before dinos, but the evolutionary paradigm's flexibility and malleability is such that it's simply re-packaged, and on-sold as if nothing untoward had happened.
In this article, CMI has essentially dredged up the century-old creationist conundrum which is usually stated as something like “If we descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” This has been amply answered many times, so I will not try to do it here.
[From a persistent critic—Ed]
Quite so; there is no need to explain, because we advise against this very argument in Arguments we think creationists should NOT use. Even Richard Dawkins commended the existence of this page, so you should definitely study it ;)
That we are well aware of what you raise is amply shown in an article published a decade ago, New four-winged feathered dinosaur?
Once more, the ‘dating’ is problematic—the researchers ‘date’ their finds at 124–128 Ma (million years) ago. But this is yet another supposed ‘ancestor’ for birds that lived ~25 Ma after the first undoubted bird Archaeopteryx (153 Ma) and even about 10 Ma after the beaked bird Confuciusornis (135 Ma)!
As Feduccia puts it, you can’t be older than your grandfather! Some of his critics argue that sometimes a grandfather can outlive his grandson. This is correct, but it boggles the mind that such an ‘advanced’ beaked bird like Confuciusornis could appear 10 million years before there is a trace of its ‘feathered dino ancestors’. More importantly, one of the major ‘evidence’ of evolution is how the evolutionary order supposedly matches the fossil sequence. Therefore the gross mismatch with the dino-birds is a severe challenge to the evolutionary explanation.
Of course, the above simply grants their evolutionary assumptions for the purpose of the argument, and lays aside their problems (see Q&A pages on Young Earth Evidence and Radiometric Dating?—creationists don’t regard the fossil sequence as a sequence of age but a sequence of burial by the Flood and its after-effects).
Great article again. It strikes me that Paul Willis was somewhat confused when he made that statement 10 years ago. "Liaoning was CREATED by GOD to show us all how much He hates creationists." If he believes that, doesn't that make him a creationist? After all isn't evolution supposed to have done it all? Poor man. Let's hope he's read about the discovery that dinosaurs ate birds, and all the other things discovered over the last decade, and has the grace to feel embarrassed about his comments. Probably not though.
Keep up the good work guys. You are a 'Godsend'.
Creationists: 1 Evolutionists: 0. I find it impossible to even comprehend 'millions of years' as the age of the Earth. I find it even harder to understand how different species of dinos and birds could live so far apart. It's really funny when little situations pop up like this and the evolutionists hastily try and cover their tracks. This article really confronts the measurements of time and classification in evolution. I may be only sixteen, but this article was a brilliant read and very thought-provoking! Thanks for the great read. Praying for Creation Ministries to continue to thrive and encourage Christians out there! :-)
If I were an evolutionist, and I thank God I'm not, I would focus my energies on showing how birds evolved directly from fish, not dinosaurs to get around such starting evidence that birds "pre-dated" dinosaurs. Anyway, I not only believe but understand much of the the science that delegates evolution to the dustbin. It's a shame to see so many scientists so desperate to hold onto a failed theory at all costs, where instead they could be using their intellectual power on solving other issues.