Does "Dinofuzz" Prove Evolution of Birds?

by Stephen Caesar

One of the biggest controversies in evolution today is the belief that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and that proof of this can be found in the fossil record. Last year, the journal Science News published an article on the discovery of “dinofuzz” that has been touted as evidence for dinosaur-to-bird evolution.

The article began by mentioning the famous Archaeopteryx, stating that it was “[t]he oldest known bird” and that it “had modern feathers” (Wang 2001: 149). The first problem is that these fully-formed, modern feathers appear suddenly in the fossil record, with no evidence of eons of evolution having produced them. “To have an incredibly new and complex thing [like feathers] suddenly arise with no known antecedents is tough to explain,” said ornithologist Richard O. Prum of the University of Kansas – Lawrence (ibid.).

To try and account for this, Prum and colleagues from China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoan-thropology made the claim that a fossil of the dinosaur Sinornithosaurus millennii (“Chinese bird lizard of the millennium”) showed signs of rudimentary feathers, thus providing evidence that Archaeopteryx’s full-blown, modern feathers do indeed have primitive predecessors. However, as Science News pointed out, “the Sinornithosaurus fossil is younger than that of Archaeopteryx,” since the former is supposedly 124 million years old, while the latter is alleged to be 150 million years old (ibid.). That being the case, Archaeopteryx’s feathers could hardly have evolved out of proto-feathers that did not appear (according to old-earth dating assumptions) until 26 million years later.

Ornithologist Storrs L. Olson of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, agreed, pointing out that this is true for other alleged examples of proto-feathers on dinosaurs: “All these so-called feathered dinosaurs are younger than the first real known birds” (ibid.).

But that isn’t the only problem with discoveries of this nature. The allegedly feather-like filaments that Prum and his colleagues saw imprinted in the Sinornithosaurus fossil are exactly that—filaments. Moreover, they are not even the filaments themselves, but fossilized impressions of them, so direct analysis cannot be made. This “dinofuzz” is simply too vague to be held up as solid evidence for dinosaur-to-bird evolution. As Science News pointed out: “In recent years, researchers have unearthed dinosaur remains that appear to be covered in a layer of ‘dinofuzz,’ notes Lawrence Witmer, a paleontologist at Ohio University in Athens. But these wispy hairlike structures are so unlike modern feathers that skeptics have all but dismissed the possibility that the two could be related” (ibid.).

Even Prof. Witmer, who leans toward the belief that dinofuzz is a form of proto-feather, admitted, “We’re looking at stuff strewn about on a rock, and consequently a lot of it is open to interpretation” (ibid.). Dr. Olson noted that those who interpret dinofuzz as evidence for bird evolution do so because they have already reached pre-determined conclusions: “They want to see feathers…so they see feathers. This is simply an exercise in wishful thinking.”

So, even leading evolutionists have admitted that the “evidence” for dinosaur-to-bird evolution is unhelpful. First, alleged proto-feathers (“dinofuzz”) are more recent than fully developed, modern feathers, negating the possibility that dinofuzz is an evolutionary step toward true feathers. Second, dinofuzz itself is too vague and too far open to interpretation to be held up as incontrovertible evidence for bird evolution. Those who claim that it is are basing their conclusions on their own pre-determined theories, not on hard science.

Reference:

Wang, L. 2001. “Dinosaur fossil yields feathery structures,” Science News 159, no. 10.

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Stephen Caesar holds his master’s degree in anthropology/archaeology from Harvard. He is the author of the e-book The Bible Encounters Modern Science, available at www.1stbooks.com.