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Monday, September 05, 2005

Dinosaurs as giant feathered birds

Supposedly an adult Velociraptor footprint on left, accompanying baby footprint on right. The adulf print was about 25cm in length from heel to middle toe. I found these on a Navajo reservation on the rim of the Grand Canyon. This lady appears to have visited a similar location.

A new scientific theory on dinosaurs is getting mainstream coverage: they were physiologically closer to birds than lizards, and many may have been feathered rather than covered in a thick reptilian skin. I note someone has already updated the Wikipedia entry to suggest Velociraptor also had feathers. From memory a T.rex chest cavity was MRI'd a couple of years ago and the remnant signature of its heart and lung arrangement also resembled that of birds.

I'm often struck by the similarities between the ratite group birds (e.g. the moa and cassowary) and the smaller late Cretaceous theropods (two-legged carnivores). Clearly the dinosaurs did not become extinct at all, instead the Velociraptor-like species evolved into present day birds. But what happened to the other varieties of dinosaur?

A very bird-like sketch of Velociraptor with a more accurate skull shape (source).

However it's always important to consider the skeptics.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 9/05/2005 02:31:00 pm


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard this theory some ten years ago and it seemed (and still does) very credible. Laugh if you will, but one only needs to look a chicken in the eye to know there is something carnivorous lurking beneath that feathered fing.

9/05/2005 03:02:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

There are many skeptics. The main problem is lack of convincing fossils evidence for either scales or feathers.

Read the skeptics update I just added.

9/05/2005 03:07:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

The skeptic argues a good case.

9/05/2005 03:25:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Not really - he's looking for logical problems from his standpoint, rather than providing a testable hypothesis usable by a paleontologist. He also sets up some false propositions for himself to deconstruct - for example no one is suggesting TRex's evolved downwards in size to chickens, yet you get that impression from reading his interview.

Most theropods were actually very small, and even Velociraptor specimens only range up to 90cm in height.

MRI and similar technology will help prove this, as we can now examine 3D blocks of rock containing fossils and discover the arrangement of internal organs before sediment (etc) infilled the body cavity. Birds have very distinctive cardio-respiratory systems.

9/05/2005 03:32:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Skeptics? How about real skeptics:

The only evidence presented for the ‘feathered’ dinosaur, Velociraptor mongoliensus was a skull. The evolutionary just-so story beneath was amazing. ‘Velociraptor has not yet been found in the Liaoning deposits and its feathers are not preserved in the Mongolian and Chinese deposits where it occurs. However, because all its close relatives had feathers, it is most likely that Velociraptor did too.’


Has a real feathered velociraptor been found?

9/05/2005 05:54:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Actually many velociraptor (or similar) skeletons have been found. They use the same species name for examples found in Mongolia and central USA because the differences are minimal relative to differences between (for example) Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus. Most paleontologists don't give a crap about the Internet and WWW so you'll never find information about them online unless you have access to scientific journal databases.

At the site near the Grand Canyon I found a spine newly eroding out of the strata (about 2m long), but I'm not sure what species it was. It was closer to the edge of the canyon, and most people avoided exploring by themselves so wouldn't come across it. Unfortunately my camera's batteries were flat by that stage.

9/05/2005 06:05:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

And yes, the feathers claim is a theory, which will be supported or disproved by evidence. Thats what science is about - making a hypothesis and testing it.

9/05/2005 06:07:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

True al, I just find it funny that people claim the beast had feathers after only finding a skull. Typical of the field. They find a bone, and it's a missing link.

9/05/2005 08:47:00 pm  

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