Sorry, how many feathers did you find?

Lü, J. et al Tongtianlong-limosus
Tongtianlong limosus trapped in mudstone

More feathered-dinosaur story telling


Chinese workmen in the Jiangxi Province of southern China have recently unearthed a new species of dinosaur. While using TNT to blow away rock in order to prepare to build a school they discovered the contorted three-dimensional fossil remains of an oviraptorosaur. Although missing parts of its arms, tail and right hind leg due to previous explosions by the workmen, it is an amazingly complete specimen. The dinosaur, located in mudstone, has been named Tongtianlong limosus, which means - muddy dragon on the road to heaven.

Another fast-forming fossil

The find has been published in Nature’s online journal, Scientific Reports.1 One of the paper’s authors, University of Edinburgh palaeontologist Dr Stephen Brusatte, speaking about the dinosaur’s odd posture exclaimed, “It looked like it got trapped in mud, and that’s how it died…. The neck is arched, the head is raised up, like it’s sticking its head above something, and both of the arms are outstretched and to the sides of the body, and so it’s like it’s trying to free itself”.2 Dr Brusatte went on to explain, “‘We don’t know this for sure, but it’s an interpretation based on the fossil and geological evidence. It’s kind of like interpreting a crime scene.’ In addition to the unusual posture, the skeleton was pristine, with no signs of damage from scavengers or flowing currents. It must have been buried quickly, he noted, in rock that hardened from ancient muck”.3

A total of how many feathers were found?

Both the picture in the journal and the statement made by Dr Brusatte are nothing more than pure fantasy with no basis in reality as there were no feathers found with the fossil.

Throughout the journal paper, Tongtianlong limosus is referred to as a bird-like feathered dinosaur and it included an artist’s impression of what the reconstructed dinosaur could have looked like. What immediately strikes the viewer is that Tongtianlong limosus is covered in feathers and looks like a large bird. Dr Brusatte exclaimed, "If you saw the 'Mud Dragon' alive, you probably would have said, 'That's a big, funny-looking bird'”.4 However, both the picture in the journal and the statement made by Dr Brusatte are nothing more than pure fantasy with no basis in reality as there were no feathers found with the fossil.

Despite secular news websites such as the Guardian,5 the Washington Post,6 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,7 CNN,8 and the BBC,9 widely reporting on the fossil dinosaur find, and all using the picture of the reconstructed dinosaur, every one of them failed to mention that no feather was actually found on the fossil dinosaur. This provides yet another clear example of an evolution-biased, unquestioning media who simply toe the line as a majority of evolutionists (but not all) hold to the story that dinosaurs evolved into birds. The picture clearly perpetuates this continuing myth of feathered dinosaurs in the minds of the unassuming public, the vast majority of whom will never read the journal paper for themselves. Surely the depiction created for the journal paper, and the shoddy un-investigative reporting by secular news websites, should raise the hackles of those who claim to be objectives seekers of the truth?

So why draw it with feathers?

Lü, J. et al artistic-Tongtianlong-limosus
Tongtianlong limosus as pictured in the journal paper, yet no feathers were found with the fossil!

Skin impressions from what are deemed to be two primitive turkey-sized oviraptorosaurs, Protarchaeopteryx robusta and Caudipteryx zoui, are believed to show feathers on their bodies.10 However their theropod dinosaur status is hotly contested in the evolutionary world and despite the caution that should then be displayed in drawing large scale inferences from them, this has not been demonstrated by the paper’s authors. Rather, as they have believed that some oviraptorosaurs may have been feathered, then Tongtianlong limosus must have been feathered too! But there is a huge amount of circular reasoning here: this looks like an oviraptorosaur, so it clearly had feathers!

The reality is that presuppositions are everything. Dr Brusatte clearly presupposes that dinosaurs evolved into birds, telling the BBC, “Modern birds came from dinosaurs … and it’s dinosaurs like Tongtianlong that give us a glimpse of what the ancestors of modern birds would have looked like. Fossils like these capture evolution in action”.11 This belief, rather than actually providing evidence of feathers, provides the rationale for depicting Tongtianlong limosus with feathers.

Surely the depiction created for the journal paper, and the shoddy un-investigative reporting by secular news websites, should raise the hackles of those who claim to be objectives seekers of the truth?

However, his statement doesn’t even make any sense in the evolutionary time line, considering that Tongtianlong limosus is only claimed to have died around 72 Ma (million years) ago. There are numerous fossils of modern birds in the same rock layers and many fully formed birds, such as Archaeopteryx, allegedly 153 Ma, or Confuciusornis, allegedly 135 Ma, in the evolutionary time line many millions of years before this time. It comes down to the simple fact that a descendant cannot be older than its ancestor, so Dr Brusatte’s claim simply doesn’t add up.

The story only gets worse, as not only did Tongtianlong limosus not have any feathers on it, as indeed the first ever found oviraptorsaur, Oviraptor philoceratops did not,12 but the evidence does not point in the direction of feathers for any oviraptorosaurs. Tongtianlong limosus is the sixth oviraptorosaurian taxon named from the Nanxiong Formation of the Ganzhou area of Jiangxi Province, southern China. All of the previous five taxa have been described over the past five years, and include: Banji,13 Ganzhousaurus,14 Jiangxisaurus,15 Nankangia,16 and Huanansaurus17—a review of these papers also shows that not one of these dinosaurs has been found with any feather, despite a number of them also being depicted as fully covered in feathers, just like Tongtianlong limosus.

Is it not time for a bit of honesty?

Surely it is time to give up this faulty line of reasoning when fossil after fossil shows that these wonderful dinosaurs never had any feathers on their bodies, (although the creation model does not necessarily rule it out) and that the depictions made of them with feathers only serve to promote a false history? Unfortunately this is probably why the pictures will remain.

So in reality what does this new fossil dinosaur actually tell us? It provides another example of a fast-formed fossil, like the many formed during the Noahic Flood, with no evidence for any dinosaur to bird transition, despite what the artist’s reconstructed picture intends to convey. The Bible is clear in the creation account in Genesis 1 that animals were created to reproduce within their own kinds only and that is exactly what the fossil record continues to show.

Published: 1 December 2016

References and notes

  1. Lü, J. et al., A Late Cretaceous diversification of Asian oviraptorid dinosaurs: evidence from a new species preserved in an unusual posture. Sci. Rep. 6:35780, 2016 | doi: 10.1038/srep35780. Return to text.
  2. Davis, N., New species of 'weird bird'-like dinosaur discovered in China, theguardian.com, 10 November 2016. Return to text.
  3. Guarino, B., How to discover a 70-million-year-old Chinese ‘mud dragon’ dinosaur: Use TNT, washingtonpost.com, 11 November 2016. Return to text.
  4. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Undiscovered dinosaur species almost destroyed by dynamite in China, abc.net.au, 11 November 2016. Return to text.
  5. Ref. 2. Return to text.
  6. Ref. 3. Return to text.
  7. Ref. 4. Return to text.
  8. Alexander, R., 'Mud dragon' dinosaur unearthed by dynamite at Chinese construction site, cnn.com, 11 November 2016. Return to text.
  9. Gill, V., Unknown dinosaur almost blown to oblivion, bbc.co.uk, 10 November 2016. Return to text.
  10. Ji, Q. et al., Two feathered dinosaurs from northeastern China, Nature 393(6687):753–761, 1998. Return to text.
  11. Ref. 9. Return to text.
  12. Osborn, H.F., Three new Theropoda, Protoceratops zone, central Mongolia. American Museum Novitates, 144:1–12, 1924. Return to text.
  13. Xu, X. & Han, F. L., A new oviraptorid dinosaur (Theropoda: Oviraptorosauria) from the Upper Cretaceous of China. Vertebr. PalAsia. 48:11–18, 2010. Return to text.
  14. Wang, S. et al., A new oviraptorid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of southern China. Zootaxa 3640:242–257, 2013. Return to text.
  15. Wei, X. F et al., A new oviraptorid dinosaur (Theropoda: Oviraptorosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Jiangxi Province, southern China. Acta Geol. Sin. 87:899–904, 2013. Return to text.
  16. Lü, J. C., et al., A new oviraptorosaur (Dinosauria: Oviraptorosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Southern China and its paleoecological implications. PLoS One 8(11):e8055, 2013 | doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080557. Return to text.
  17. Lü, J. C. et al. A new oviraptorid Dinosaur (Dinosauria: Oviraptorosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Southern China and its paleobiogeographical implications. Sci. Rep. 5:11490, 2015 | doi: 10.1038/srep11490. Return to text.

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