This article is from
Creation 19(4):49, September 1997

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Flighty flap

Another ‘dinosaur-bird link’ falls flat.


The ‘feathered dinosaur’, ‘176,000-year-old’ Aboriginal remains, and ‘Mars life’; such recent announcements caused much media fanfare, but when they were refuted, by secular scientists, there was scarcely a whimper in the media.1

The latest ‘missing link’ is described by Dr Fernando Novas in the 22 May 1997 issue of Nature.2 It is based on more than 20 fragments of leg, rib and shoulder bones found in the Patagonia region of Argentina. From these, artists have drawn a silhouette of a creature (Unenlagia comahuensis) with neck, head, jaws, tail etc.—1.2 metres (four feet) tall at the hip and c.2.3 metres long. They claim it was carnivorous.

Its pelvis is said to resemble both birds and theropod dinosaurs. But the main evidence for its intermediate status is its shoulder girdle, which was tilted outwards in a way which supposedly could have enabled flightless flapping.

But much of this is not based on the actual evidence of a few pieces of bone, but their interpretation in an evolutionary framework. We should remember another alleged dino-bird link called Mononykus, claimed to be a ‘flightless bird’.3 The cover of Time magazine even illustrated it with feathers, although not the slightest trace of feathers had been found.4 This dinosaur had some bird-like features in its bones, but so do moles and other digging animals,5 and it likely used its stubby forelimbs for digging. The overall evidence indicated that ‘Mononykus was clearly not a bird … it clearly was a fleet-footed fossorial [digging] theropod.’6

Actually, Dr Novas admits that this creature could not have been a ‘missing link’—since he believes it to be 55 million years younger than Archaeopteryx, a true perching bird with real flight feathers.7 Obviously an ancestor cannot be millions of years younger than its descendant! But he claims this is what the link must have resembled.

All would admit that this creature’s limb girdle design must have had some function—and all agree it could not have been for flying in such a heavy creature. So how do we know what this function really was? Not all in the evolutionary community accept that these ‘bird-like’ features have anything to do with the evolution of flight. Alan Feduccia, chairman of the biology department at the University of North Carolina, who is a staunch critic of the dinosaur-to-bird theory in general, says:

‘“It’s biophysically impossible to evolve flight from such large bipeds with foreshortened forelimbs and heavy, balancing tails,” exactly the wrong anatomy for flight.’8

‘The theropod [dinosaur] origin of birds, in my opinion, will be the greatest embarrassment of paleontology of the 20th century.’9

Two major hurdles for a reptile turning into a bird are the completely different structure of the lungs and the exquisitely designed feathers.10 Many evolutionists claim feathers evolved from scales. But scales are folds in skin; feathers are complex structures which originate in a totally different way, and feather proteins are biochemically different from skin and scale proteins. One researcher concludes:

‘… feathers are traditionally considered homologous with reptilian scales. However, in development, morphogenesis, gene structure, protein shape and sequence, and filament formation and structure, feathers are different.’11

Once again, it is likely that there will be a deafening silence from the secular media when this latest ‘evidence’ for evolution joins the long list of items which are no longer believed by evolutionists themselves.

Web links

References and notes

  1. See—Life on Mars?, Creation 19(1):18–20, December 1996; Kentucky fried dinosaur?, 19(2):6 & 8, March 1997; 19(3):6 & 7, June 1997. See also—Q&A: Alien Life/UFOs.
  2. F. E. Novas and P. F. Puerta, New evidence concerning avian origins from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia, Nature 387(6631): 390–392, 1997; commentary in the same issue by L. M. Witmer, A New Missing Link on pp. 349–350.
  3. A. Perle et al, Flightless bird from the Cretaceous of Mongolia, Nature 362:623–626, 1993; correction of the name to Mononykus, as Perle et al.’s choice Mononychus was already taken, Nature 363:188, 1993.
  4. Time (Australia), 26 April 1993.
  5. R. Monastersky, A clawed wonder unearthed in Mongolia, Science News 143(16):245, 1993; Creation 15(4):7, 1993.
  6. John H. Ostrom, On the origin of birds and of avian flight, in Major features of vertebrate evolution, ed. D. P. Prothero and R. M. Schoch, pp. 160–177, University of Tennessee Press, 1994.
  7. Alan Feduccia, Evidence from Claw Geometry Indicating Arboreal Habits of Archaeopteryx, Science 259:790–793, 1993.
  8. Quoted in Ann Gibbons, New Feathered Fossil Brings Dinosaurs and Birds Closer, Science 274:720–721, 1996.
  9. Quoted in Pat Shipman, Birds do it … did dinosaurs, New Scientist 153(2067):27–31.
  10. See Michael Denton, Evolution: a Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler, Bethesda, Maryland, pp. 199–213, 1985.
  11. A.H. Brush, ‘On the origin of feathers,’ Journal of Evolutionary Biology 9:131–142, 1996.