By Caleb LePore – USA
The UK Guardian reported 16 July 2015: “Zhenyuanlong suni: biggest ever winged dinosaur is found in China.”1 The article goes onto to say: “The fossil of the prehistoric raptor is so well preserved that scientists have been able to reconstruct its impressive plumage, from the tiny feathers on its head and neck, to the larger quill pen-like feathers that sprout from its tail and substantial wings.”1
BBC News reports, “The dinosaur has been named Zhenyuanlong, meaning “Zhenyuan’s dragon,” in honor of the man who procured the fossil for the museum in Jinzhou, allowing it to be studied.”2 This new fossil was reportedly discovered in Early Cretaceous deposits of Liaoning, China. Compared to many of the previously purported ‘feathered dinosaur’ specimens, this one’s size is quite substantial measuring 126.6 cm (4ft 2in) long. As its tail is incomplete, scientists estimate it was 165 cm (5ft 5in) in total body length and would have weighed 20kg, which is far heavier than any living flying bird.
Classified as a dromeosaurid, it is considered an older relative of the more famous Velociraptor. Unlike Velociraptor, however, whose discovered fossil remains thus-far lack any feathers or feather imprints, the scientists who reported this new specimen say that, “Feathers are present and well preserved on several portions of the body, particularly the arms and tail.”3
However, the reason the scientific community is in a flap over this specimen is the presence of clearly-distinguished structures interpreted as ‘wings.’ “It’s the biggest dinosaur that has ever been found with wings,” said Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at Edinburgh University. “In general it is very bird-like, but it’s big, and has these very short arms with full-blown wings…’ The Guardian went on to report that the experts claim,‘The specimen poses a conundrum for researchers, because despite its impressive wings, the animal was probably incapable of flight. Brusatte said their function was a mystery, but they might have been used in colourful sexual displays, just as peacocks parade their tail feathers to court peafowls. Another possibility is that the dinosaur used its wings to protect its eggs.”1
Before we get our feathers all ruffled up about this new fossil, we need to take a step back and ask: What we know for sure? One thing is for certain: this is not a ‘missing link’! Even by evolutionary-dating standards, it is impossible, for this to be a dino-to-bird link, because it dates to the Early Cretaceous, while the supposedly earliest ‘true bird,’ Archaeopteryx, was found in Upper Jurassic rocks. Such is the case for nearly all of the supposed ‘feathered dinosaurs’ found in China. The only way that evolutionists can salvage their idea of dino-to-bird evolution is to imagine ‘ghost lineages’; that is, to imagine that fossils found in later rocks might have evolved from earlier unfossilised creatures which werestill be on their way to becoming birds. However, this idea is pure, unwarranted speculation based on evolutionary assumptions, in spite of the evidence.
We can also ask; “What assumptions are being made in the classification and interpretation of this creature?” Evolutionary researchers use a system called ‘cladistics’ to classify organisms according to their supposed evolutionary history. This system, claimed to be the most objective method of classification, uses a creature’s possession or lack of certain traits as diagnostic for determining how an organism relates to others on the evolutionary tree. However, as many have pointed out before, this system is actually highly subjective, because traits can be included or not included depending on whether or not someone believes that a certain trait is a result of evolutionary descent or convergent evolution. Convergent evolution is a term evolutionists use to describe a situation when two supposedly unrelated organisms evolve very similar structures or body plans (i.e. marsupial moles vs. placental moles). As a result, though cladistics may appear objective, it is, by nature, designed to only spit out answers that are acceptable to the evolutionary paradigm.
Interestingly, Brusatte also stated, ”So even though this is a dinosaur, even though it is a close relative of velociraptor, it looks exactly like a turkey or a vulture.”2 So, is this creature really a feathered dinosaur or a bird? It is hard to tell at this point. More researchers (including independent Creation scientists) actually need to see the specimen in order to verify that the traits used to classify this creature have been accurately reported.
It is interesting to hear the response of evolutionary researchers to the discovery of Zhenyuanlong, “When you see a dinosaur like this that’s pretty big, and has these short arms and bird-like wings, it begs that question: what are wings really for? We used to think pretty much anything that had wings was flying, but that’s not so clear now,” [Brusatte] said.”1
So, whether or not this specimen turns out to be a feathered saurus or bird the Truth of God’s Word stands confirmed: God created birds and reptiles, including the sauruses, separately on Days 5 and 6 of Creation Week, and they did not evolve into one another or anything else. We also need to note that nothing in the Bible eliminates the possibility that God created some land dwelling creatures with feathers, as He obviously did for the flightless Moa Birds, Emus and Ostriches. In fact, so-called flightless birds show all the evidence of being designed to be ground dwelling running creatures, who use their non flying wings for a number of useful functions. For illustrations see Vestigial Flightless Birds.
Furthermore, this is not the first fossilized creature with feathers that could be a running bird rather than a dinosaur. In 1998 a fossil creature named Caudipteryx was claimed to be a feathered dinosaur. At the time Creation Research suggested this creatures was an extinct running bird. Two years later, other scientists compared the structure of beipedal dinosaurs and running birds and came to the conclusion: “Surprisingly, Caudipteryx , described as a theropod dinosaur possessed an anterior centre of mass and hindlimb proportions resembling those of cursorial birds.” Jones, T. D., et, al. Nature 406, 716-718, 17 August 2000, doi:10.1038/35021041. (Cursorial, means to run along the ground) See our Fact File report Evolutionists catch up with us . Other scientists have since disputed this and the debate goes on. However, this dispute reminds us of the difficulty of studying a creature that is only represented by dead bones, rather than living specimens.
There is also no doubt that the media is using this latest claim of a ‘feathered dinosaur’ as an opportunity to ‘prove’ Jurassic World’s portrayal of raptors wrong. How glad we are to see that the makers of this movie have stuck to their ‘artistic license’ defense, to which they could also add the argument that no actual fossil velociraptor has shown any trace of feathers at all.
1. Sample, Ian. “Zhenyuanlong Suni: Biggest Ever Winged Dinosaur Is Found in China.” The Guardian. 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited, 16 July 2015. Web. 11 July 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jul/16/zhenyuanlong-suni-biggest-ever-winged-dinosaur-discovered-china>
2. Gill, Victoria. “Dinosaur Find: Velociraptor Ancestor Was ‘winged Dragon’ – BBC News.” BBC News. 2015 BBC, 16 July 2015. Web. 11 Aug. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33510288>
3. Lü, Junchang, and Stephen L. Brusatte. “A Large, Short-armed, Winged Dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Cretaceous of China and Its Implications for Feather Evolution.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 16 July 2015. Web. 11 Aug. 2015. <http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150716/srep11775/full/srep11775.html>
4. Pickrell, John. “The Great Dinosaur Fossil Hoax.” Cosmos Magazine. N.p., 27 July 2015. Web. 11 Aug. 2015. <https://cosmosmagazine.com/life-sciences/great-dinosaur-fossil-hoax>
For more information on the claim that dinosaurs evolved into birds see the questions:
FEATHERED DINOSAURS? Don’t feathered dinosaurs prove that birds evolved from dinosaurs? Answer here.
DINOSAURS: Latest finds should convince you they evolved into birds. What’s stopping you? Answer here.