North American ‘feathered’ dinosaurs a flight of fancy


Published: 8 November 2012 (GMT+10)
Julius Csotonyi This ‘artist’s reconstruction’ greatly misrepresents the fossil evidence for ‘feathers’
Figure 1. This ‘artist’s reconstruction’ greatly misrepresents the fossil evidence for ‘feathers’

The science news has been abuzz with astounding claims that the first ‘feathered dinosaur’ has been found in North America (See Dinosaurs looking for love grew alluring feathers). ScienceDaily announced, “Fossils of first feathered dinosaurs from North America discovered: Clues on early wing uses.”

However, the small print of the news release reveals that researchers have merely discovered “lengthy wisps” on an adult. They did not find any wisps on any juvenile specimens.

Note it was just “lengthy wisps”. I would not be surprised if the wisps turn out to be something other than feathers, such as partly decayed collagen fibres.

In order to make the announcement convincing and grab the media’s imagination the news releases were accompanied by a spectacular drawing of a dinosaur running through long bushes arrayed with massive plumage of brilliantly coloured feathers on its forelimbs (figure 1). These were drawn as proper feathers, not just a few wisps.

The news release was accompanied by an image of the actual fossil (figure 2). There is not a single feather visible on the fossil, or even an impression of a feather. Obviously the feathers on the drawing were found in the artist’s head. And to call the drawing an “artist’s reconstruction” seems like spin.

Apart from the misinformation in the claim that the dinosaur Ornithomimus had feathered wings, it raised many puzzles and questions. It was not difficult to list some of them.

  1. Ornithomimus was too big and its alleged wings were too small for it to be able to fly. The researchers said this indicates the initial use of its wings was not for flight.
  2. Royal Tyrrell Museum Dinosaur fossil is well preserved and in classic “dead dinosaur pose” indicating it was in death throes after being rapidly buried.
    Figure 2. Dinosaur fossil is well preserved and in classic “dead dinosaur pose” pose. This has been attributed to opisthotonus due to suffocation by being rapidly buried, or to buoyancy upon submersion enabling a spinal ligament to pull back the neck and tail.
  3. The large clusters of feathers on its forelimbs (as drawn by the artist) would have been of no use for flying. But they would have been a major hindrance for walking and feeding. The researchers said the dinosaurs may have used their “flashy feathers” to woo potential mates, peacock style.
  4. The announcement said the find will "shed light on origin of wings". However, according to evolutionary assumptions wings already existed. Archaeopteryx is ‘dated’ as 80 million years older than this Canadian Ornithomimus, which was assigned to the late Cretaceous, supposedly 71 million years ago. This has long been claimed to be the ancestor of birds and already had wings—impressive ones at that. Indeed, it looks like it could fly.
  5. The reports said the Ornithomimus specimens were apparently covered in “stringy down up to 2 inches (5 cm) long”. Note that these are not feathers but just “stringy down”. Yet the report described the strings as “filament-like feathers” (more spin). Note that the artist’s embellishment, showed not lengths of stringy down on the limbs but, an impressive array of fully formed feathers.
  6. Most of the fossils of Archaeopteryx, which is dated at 80 million years older than this Ornithomimus fossil, include impressions of feathers—impressions that were of an ‘advanced’ form, in that they are of flight feathers. So Ornithomimus throws no light on the origin of feathers, even within their own evolutionary framework, because feathers already existed.
  7. Note that the fossil is well preserved, indicating that the creature was buried rapidly before it had been scavenged and before the remains had rotted and disintegrated. The evidence points to a short time for the death and burial of the fossil.
  8. Note, too, the posture of the animal. Its back is arched, legs thrown forward and bent, neck curved tightly and head forward. This is the classic ‘dead dinosaur posture’ which indicates rapid burial. It has been suggested this opisthotonic posture is due to the animal being suffocated as it was buried (see Death throes), or submersion increasing buoyancy so that a strong spinal ligament can pull back the tail and neck (see ‘Feathered’ dinos: no feathers after all!).

The puzzles, bloopers, problems and need for exaggerated artist’s reconstructions disappear when we look at this evidence from the point of view of biblical history. These dinosaurs were buried during Noah’s Flood as the waters were rising. They were overwhelmed and their remains were interred without much passage of time (See Watery catastrophe deduced from huge Ceratopsian dinosaur graveyard). To be more precise, the dinosaurs were likely buried as the waters neared their peak. Did these dinosaurs have stringy filaments on their front legs when they were alive? That is an open question. But these animals were not on the way to evolving into birds. They and the birds existed together, and, apart from those on the Ark, they were all overwhelmed and perished during the Flood.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

David B.
To be fair, it should be noted that a creature dated long after another could, in theory, shed light on the evolution of the earlier one, on the same basis that living apes are studied in the hopes of gaining insight into the common ancestor of humans and ("other") apes. I do not find it a convincing approach, as it requires "ghost lineages" of creatures that lived for millions of years but didn't leave any fossils that we know of ("yet"), although being very similar to creatures living before and after which did. With almost all the "primitive" forms being dated after Archaeopteryx, the straightforward understanding of the fossil record from an evolutionary viewpoint would be that some dinosaurs evolved from birds or bird-like creatures, not vice-versa.

The 40 or so major groups of living birds show up with few or no similar forms in the Cretaceous deposits.
nathan P.
This is a great article and shows how "evolutionists" tend to make up fancy stories!
C. N.
1. This does not pose any problems. Many birds have wings, but do not use them specifically for flight; ostriches or penguins are an example of this. Do a Google search on “birds that can’t fly” for a more comprehensive list and do a bit of research on what their feathers are for.

2.Quite unsure of why this would hinder walking or feeding. As for using their feathers “peacock style”, what problem exactly does this pose? Its been recorded extensively that many creatures display to show potential mating interests, or for dominance.

3.While Archaeopteryx is an older species, the evidence of wings do not fully explain why wings evolved. Archaeopteryx does not seem to be an ancestor of Ornithomimus, but more of an offshoot that deviated much earlier from other possible feathered species, while Ornithomimus would have evolved from a different, and thus, flightless ancestor. The evievidence of plumage gives more insight into wings and their usage, not just flight.

4.Yes, a popular news media outlet on science gave limited information to the lay population… why not actually look into the article the info is cited from? The actual peer reviewed paper gives and presents the evidence of the feather structures on the older specimens found. Primary sources are whats usually used in science…. Not popular media sources. Hence, no “spin”.

5.Again, Archaeopteryx does not explain the development of feathers, nor does it fully explain why feathers are used. More evidence of feathers can further the research already done so far.

6.Rapid or slow burial (of which the latter would be more likely) has nothing to do with feather development. This is also not the fossil(s) that the primary source is examining. Surely a large institution as CMI has the resources to gain the actual article?
Tas Walker
Jonathan Sarfati's article provides a good overview that deals with many of the issues you have raised.
D. R.
I never figured out why cheerleaders have the pom-poms in their hands untill I saw the Ornithomimus "picture". Now I know what cheerleaders evolved from...
mo C.
You say: 'The reports said the Ornithomimus specimens were apparently covered in “stringy down up to 2 inches (5 cm) long”. Note that these are not feathers but just “stringy down”'

I say: What is down?
Tas Walker
Quite different from the flight feathers shown in the picture.
Herman G.
Thanks for this article. I love it when one takes on the evolutionists on their own field and with logical deductions and facts instead of reasoning a from fundamentalistic interpretation of the Bible. God bless, Herman
william S.
Scientists that make the most progress in discovery are the ones that abandon the agenda of proving evolution and instead search for the truth.
Mike K.
I am reminded of what Jesus said:
"Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition [evolution]." Mark 7:9
"How can ye believe, which receive honour one from another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" John 5:44
"But if ye believe not his [Moses] writings, how shall ye believe my words?" John 5:47
Paul V.
Scientists have long suspected that dinosaurs had feathers - when Jurassic Park the movie came out, it was already out of date because the dinosaurs shown there did not have feathers.
Also, there were a few dinosaurs in Canada that were determined to have feathers, and one of them appeared to have more fully formed feathers on its forelimbs, while all of them had the 'down' mentioned in the article on their bodies. This actually makes some sense, since the down would help them stay warm, and the more fully formed feathers on its "wings" might be more colourful or otherwise interesting. Looking at the picture shown in the article, it actually looks about right - the larger, grown dinosaur has full feathers on forelimbs and down on the rest of the body, while the younger, smaller one has only down.
Lastly, from what I understand, the two significant facts about this finding are that they were found in the Western hemisphere, when previously feathers were only found on dinosaurs in China, and where found in a river deposit instead of a lake deposit, which means that a different type of sediment was at work in the preserving process. In other words, this is an important find that helps advance knowledge. I don't understand why anyone interested in knowledge would object to that, which seems to be what this article is doing.
Tas Walker
The July 2012 article by Jonathan Sarfati provides a good overview. In it he says, "CMI has long pointed out that there is nothing in the biblical creationist model that states that dinosaurs must lack feathers. Having said that, however, we also point out that the examples to date have been far from convincing."
Dennis H.
You know, we have witnessed the most marvelous revolution in dino and human evolution that anyone would want to see. It is proof of evolution - that is Photoshop evolution. How can their fertile minds be so creative, and never see the creative power of God in them and all around them is well beyond my comprehension. They disprove their hap hazed evolution theories with a magnificent designed mind that God himself created so that could know Him. From the Lucy want to be human, to this Dino want to be bird, God shows his gracious power of human creativity even in the minds of these poor people who believe not. Simply amazing. Simply amazing.
Whi B.
Tena koe from Aotearoa(new zealand)
thank you all for your work and comments- enlightening and informative-much appreciated! it's still disappointing to me as a mother of 4 intelligent beautiful children that the 'science' books they are presented with at school & colege have so much evolutionary jargon- it's exhausting fighting it every are a great help-i thank The sovereign Lord for all of you and Your books!!!Whi
A. C.
I really do believe that if maniraptoriform "dinosaurs"(velociraptor, ornithomimus, ect...) were still alive that most people would see them as nothing more than odd looking birds.
murk P.
Thanks for article, especially the problems this presents within the evolutionist framework.

Me no expert - but looking at figure 2, is it possible that whatever caused front leg to break off (unless it was attached about 1/4 way down on 4th rib:)
and one of the front legs to partially disappear could have also caused this severed leg to "skip down" until it found its resting place under right hind leg? Damaged bone piece by knee joint is same shape as the 13 depressions of a different colour. Unless of course they are not depressions but tubular shaped...which i cannot tell from pic.
Jack L.
Thanks for a nice article.
Timothy C.
Interesting hype about dinosaur feathers. It appears that the dinosaurs forelimbs are too far forward of the center of mass to make effective wings. I've built aircraft for the most accurate PC simulator in the world and when you have your wings so far forward of the center of lift, it is very hard to keep a stable flight. So, even if a theropod did have fully formed wings, how could it maintain stable flight when the wing is so far forward that the trailing edge isn't even touching the center of mass (as is appears in the picture)? And how would blind chance be able to move the wings back far enough to allow for stable flight without moving the wings so far back that the dinosaur does a nose dive on take-off? It just doesn't make sense. The position of the wing would be selected against and there would be no dino-to-bird event! Evolution would have to "plan ahead" which it cannot do because it has no intelligence.
Joel B.
Every textbook that promotes evolution should include your statement "Obviously the feathers on the drawing were found in the artists head."
Evolution is a fact based on who can draw the best and transitional forms exist not in the fossil records but are alive and well in the artists heads.
Another wonderful little expose of the lie of evolution and the silly claims they make with a fossil and a few crayons.
Thanks again!
Alex K.
Thanks for the article. I heard about the news but didn't give it much notice. I expected it would be exactly what you showed here. I don't see any feathers either but the image is too small. How exactly did they get the idea that it has feathers in the first place?
Keiron A.
It looks like a mongrel between a peacock and a tyrannosaurus rex. This is desperation from evolutionists because we have countered every argument and they still don't get the message that evolution has not been proven.
Julie M.
We've just visited the new Sea World Qld Dinosaur Island exhibition which also flouts the feathered dinos, depicting a variety of dinosaurs with down and feathers. Even the T-Rex is shown with a fluffy coat of downy feathers. I'd love to see a critique of their exhibition.
John E.
Also that the creature in figure 2 is clearly a 'lizard-hipped' dinosaur, not a 'bird-hipped' one. One would have thought that if birds had evolved from any group of dinosaurs, that they would have come from the 'bird-hipped' variety.
A. T.
Hi, I want to first thank you for the work that you keep doing here. While I agree with most of the article, I have a small issue with the hypothesis of drowning being the cause of the "dinosaur in death throes" position. I remember reading in a newly updated textbook about some researchers submerging dead chickens in still water, and observing their necks bend in the iconic dinosaur fashion. When the neck tendons of these chicken were cut, their heads did not bend back. They drew the conclusion that dinosaurs had similar musculature - birds came from dinos after all ;) - and the lessened resistance of the water environment allowed the taunt tendons to pull the head back. I realise this hypothesis does seem to make some problems for the great flood, since the water might need to remain relatively still for the becks to bend back. Regardless it should be considered as a factor, since it points to a watery grave to many dinosaurs.

Tas Walker
Hi Andrei, We've adjusted the text to include this hypothesis,

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.