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Sorry, how many feathers did you find?

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

More feathered-dinosaur story telling


Published: 1 December 2016 (GMT+10)

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.

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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Readers’ comments

C. W.
Having read this article just a week ago, I came across this today - [link deleted per feedback rules (the article is about a 36 mm long piece of feathered tail in amber bought from amber miners in Myanmar)]
Does this new find actually constitute any evidence to support 'evolution'?
Don Batten
In contrast to the article commented upon here, this fossil actually has clear feathers. The popular media outlets dogmatically proclaim it as a dinosaur tail, but the authors are more circumspect: "likely", according to their reasoning; but it is not at all certain.
However, as Philip said in his article, and we have said elsewhere, there is no reason that some dinosaurs could not have had feathers in a creation model. It's just that the evidence has not been convincing thus far, and there is good reason to be skeptical in the light of hoaxes such as Archaeoraptor.
In regards to support for evolution, even within the evolutionists' own false history (timeframe), it says nothing about the origin of birds with feathers because this feathered tail fragment from Myanmar is said to be 99 Ma in age, whereas Archaeopteryx, which had flight feathers, is said to be 150 Ma in age.
Bill W.
Excellent article. I think it's also important to note that mudstones are good at capturing very fine details, and had feathers been present on the dinosaur at the time of burial, they would likely be represented in the fossil. To me this is more proof that a rapid widespread flood took place, trapping many creatures and creating many fossils and it only strengthens my faith in God.
Thomas M D.
I want to thank you for including the artwork, because I believe the artists, as well as the other contributors, should be held accountable for the significant role they play in promoting purely speculative opinion as though it were factual. I encourage others to do as I do, communicating to them the same criticism brought to the attention of the writers of the opinion. The artist in this case is Zhao Chuang. Be kind but forthright; Chuang is a committed evolutionist who is actively promoting evolution to children through toys and books...
T. W.
Yet another great article!
Dan M.
"Why draw it with feathers"?
Because in the face of so much modern scientific discovery, They, (the evolutionists) have to save their religion somehow. Fantastic story telling and deception is all they have to be honest. Genetics alone has proven evolution to be false besides the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record, (that Darwin said would be found) Radiometric dating discrepancies and the list goes on. It's, (evolution and atheism) presuppositions are all built on fantasy and deception!
"Time for a little honesty".
It will never happen because that means giving up their religion that they have fought so hard for. The honest truth would demolish evolution and its religion, atheism!
I praise God that the more we learn from science, the more Gods word is validated. Then there is no need to deceive to prop the bible up! It truly is, Gods word on the matter of where did we come from?
Steven T.
You argue that it is invalid to reconstruct oviraptors with feathers merely because they are skeletally very similar to Caudipteryx, which definitely had feathers. By that reasoning, it is invalid to reconstruct the saber-tooth Smilodon with fur, since no skeleton of this animal has ever been found with fur and it is depicted with fur merely because modern cats (which resemble it) have fur.

Note that no oviraptorid skeleton shows impressions of scaly skin, or skin impressions at all, so the lack of evidence for feathers on these animals is definitely not evidence of absence (a lot of obvious bird fossils don't show feather impressions, either).

You have a category, "birds," even though you don't think that, e.g. sparrows and penguins share a common ancestor any more than, say, sparrows and lobsters do. "Birds" and "dinosaurs" are both, as you see it, conglomerations of entirely separate "kinds" united only by shared designs. Both are, according to some articles you've published, part of a group "vertebrates" which, of course, share skeletal features due to common design rather than common descent.

But on that assumption, why can't birds be dinosaurs just as they and mammals are vertebrates? Why can't non-bird dinosaurs have feathers just as non-cat mammals have fur? Is it just because "birds" and "land animals" were created on separate days? I have not seen you exclude bats and whales from the mammals on that ground.
Philip Robinson
There are a couple of misconceptions and false analogies here. Caudipteryx zoui’s designation as an oviraptosaur as the article pointed out is highly contested and it is simply thought to be a flightless bird by many people, including evolutionist and Paleornithologist Alan Feduccia. There are a number of features such as feathers, birdlike teeth and the use of gizzard stones that clearly separates Caudipteryx zoui from oviraptosaurs. This is why, as the article clearly pointed out, caution should be used when trying to draw any large scale inferences from it. On the other hand dinosaur skin impressions from dinosaurs have been found over a wide range of different kinds, see here for one example, which is why an inference can be drawn from this, as oviraptosaurs as dinosaurs, and at least the texture of their skin can be accurately represented in depictions.

As far as I am able to see Smilodon remains have never been found with fur attached to them. However, unlike Caudipteryx zoui’s highly contested position, no-one disagrees that Smilodon is a large feline, and as other felines are covered in fur, it is a reasonable assumption for depictions of it to also have it covered in fur, although the coat pattern would only be the artists own design. The question really comes down to why would someone want to depict oviraptoaurs such as Tongtianlong limosus with feathers when no uncontested oviraptosaur has been found with feathers other than to further the evolutionary idea of dinosaurs evolving into birds and to attempt to deceive the general public that it has more weight than it really does?

Birds and dinosaurs cannot be the same kind of animal as they are created on different days, days five and six respectively. The article was also very clear to point out that the creation model would not exclude dinosaurs or any other kind of animal also having feathers, however this is not what the actual evidence shows. Mammal and vertebrate are useful categories in describing the very non-evolutionary pattern of nested hierarchy, but they are not indicators of whether something was created on either day five or six, or what kind of animal it may be.

The main point in all this is that the paper touted the feathered nature of this creature, and gave it new species status, but no feathers were found on this fossil.

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