Dinosaur to Bird Evolution, Part 1

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I have loved dinosaurs since I was a kid. I know, it’s weird. Because I’m a girl and I’m not supposed to love big, scaly critters with lots of teeth, but that’s okay, I’m fine with being weird (used to it, in fact). So, out of my love and devotion for dinosaurs, I have decided to call the month of May, Dinosaur Month on my blog.

Yes, I am aware that International Dinosaur Month is in October (although nobody seems to know who started this), and National Fossil Day is also in October (Oct. 15th), but I don’t want to wait. And it’s my blog, so you can’t stop me (no, I’m not sticking my tongue out).

If you happen to not like dinosaurs, you can still visit here on Mondays for the devotions (I can’t do all this month’s devotions about dinosaurs, sorry, it’s just too hard). Or you can feel free to visit here again in June, I won’t hold it against you.

Now, on to dinosaur related things. In school, I remember being taught about the general theory of evolution when I was pretty young, maybe in grade school, but certainly by junior high. And it actually made me love dinosaurs more. To think they had one ancestor, from a group called the Archosaurs, whose DNA changed and morphed into all the different amazing creatures we see at dusty dig sites or in museum displays. The idea itself seemed fantastical, and I love ideas.

The hypothesis of dinosaurs changing into birds came into fashion sometime while I was in college. I accepted it without question. For me, it meant that in a small way dinosaurs lived on, that somehow they outsmarted the gigantic meteor or the climate change or whatever actually killed them all off.

Skip ahead many years and I became a Christian. I continued to believe in evolution for several more years until I took a church class about creationism. I went into that class with the attitude of “prove this creation stuff to me.” And I was surprised by the evidence. In the next several posts, I’d like to share some of this evidence as it relates to dinosaurs. Some of this information has come from classes I’ve taken with creation scientists, some from creation magazines, and some of it from a presentation prepared by Helmut Welke, President of the Quad Cities Creation Science Association (thanks, Helmut). For more on the Quad Cities Creation Science Association, visit their website, http://www.qccsa.org/.

I’ll do my best to keep this down to earth because I’m sure most of you out there aren’t geologists. So, here are a few of the issues with the theory of dinosaur to bird evolution:

1)      Lack of transitional forms

This means scientists don’t see bird-dinos or dino-birds. If evolution gradually changed dinosaurs into birds, there should be intermediate forms between the two. These transitional forms just aren’t found in the fossil record. Back in the day of Darwin, paleontologists said we simply hadn’t found enough fossils and that transitional forms would turn up. Millions of fossils later, we still have no transitional forms.

Archaeopteryx is sometimes heralded as the missing link between dinosaurs and birds, but there isn’t any evidence this animal was anything more than a bird. It has the characteristic longer forelimbs and shorter hind limbs of a bird, but its supposed dinosaur ancestors show no evidence of their body proportions transitioning in this way.

A few dinosaur fossils have been found with fuzzy material on the bone, which some paleontologists have interpreted as left over feathers. However, further study has shown this material to be fossilized collagen filaments from skin not feathers.

2)      Feathers versus scales

Feathers differ markedly from scales in structure and growth. Feathers grow from tube-like follicles similar to hair follicles and are attached at knobs on the bone. Scales are not individual structures like feathers, but rather comprise a continuous sheet on the surface of the body. When scales shed, they shed as an entire sheet. In contrast, feathers grow and are shed in matched pairs. The structure is very different, as well. The feather vane is made up of hundreds of barbs, each bearing hundreds of barbules interlocked with tiny hinged hooks. This structure is much more complex than the relatively simple structure of reptilian scales. Is it reasonable to believe one evolved into another?

3)      Dinosaur digits

At first glance, dinosaur and bird hands look similar in that they both have three fingers, but the problem is they aren’t the same three fingers. As the embryo develops in both birds and dinosaurs, two of the five fingers are lost and three are retained. Dinosaurs retain digits one, two and three (digit one is the thumb), while birds retain digits two, three and four. So, birds and dinosaurs have mismatched fingers. If they evolved from each other, you’d expect their fingers to have evolved together, as well. This difference suggests it’s almost impossible for them to be related.

In the post next week, I’ll discuss more problems with the hypothesis of dinosaur to bird evolution. For now, what do you think? Does it sound possible for dinosaur scales to evolve into bird feathers? How would you account for the difference in finger development?

Additional Resources: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/did-dinosaurs-turn-into-birds

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