bird dinosaurs - Archaeopteryx fossil

Dinosaur birds were flying like modern birds

While I was researching the story on the oldest fossil shrimp, I noticed another story about one of my favorite subjects, birds that lived with dinosaurs.  The title is “Tiny ancient fossil from Spain shows birds flew over the heads of dinosaurs.” Now, a lot of creationists would read this and imagine robins and bluejays and such, but fossils of modern birds like those aren’t found in the same rock formations as dinosaurs.

It should also be noted that it isn’t news that there were extinct kinds of flying birds that were fossilized in Cretaceous and even Jurassic rocks alongside dinosaurs.

What’s exciting about this find is it provides very strong evidence that the extinct birds in the “early” or deeper Cretaceous layers had wings that were just as complex and well-designed for flying as modern birds’. 

The fossil is just part of a wing, but it includes some petrified soft tissues that are very important to powered flight. One of these is the propatagium, a soft flap of skin and other tissues stretched from the shoulder to the wrist. Bats have them, too, and obviously not because they share a common ancestor with birds.  Research has shown this flap and the feathers associated with it make an important contribution to the lift of the wing. This new fossil reveals other details that, taken all together, make a convincing case that the bird it belonged to was able to fly as well as modern birds can.

Now, some creationists would say, “Ah HAH! IF birds evolved from dinosaurs, how come there were still dinosaurs around?” But that’s not how evolution works. At least, not always. New species don’t replace old ones, they branch off from them. In the stories evolutionists tell about animals evolving all sorts of complex new parts, a lot of stages along the way do die off without ever leaving fossils behind, which conveniently explains why there are so few transitional fossils compared to all the ones that don’t have any known descendants, and even the transitionals are usually not considered to be the actual ancestors of other fossils or living animals.

It also doesn’t bother most evolutionists that these fully-capable flyers are assigned dates as old as, or even older than, a number of fossils that are supposed to show what the ancestors of birds looked like. They just chalk it up to their belief that we only have a tiny fraction of all the kinds of animals that ever lived represented by known fossils, so we have to make do with the descendants of the ancestors of the ancestors of… well, get the picture? For evolutionists, birds HAD to evolve from something, so if the only fossils of something close enough to birds are dated at the same time or later than birds, well, they just HAVE to have been descended from the same ancestors as birds, but they managed to get along without evolving much, or evolving in other ways.

This is all very well, but what it comes down to is making stuff up and believing in things that don’t actually have hard evidence. If you aren’t committed to believing that all life evolved naturally, it seems awfully suspicious that after over 100 years of searching, we don’t have a better line-up. After all, we do have a lot of different fossils from all sorts of layers. For instance, there are a number of different lizard-like reptiles that could glide found as fossils in deposits dated a good deal older than Archaeopteryx — but none of them are anything like dinosaurs or birds. There are just a few fossils that appear to be just a bit more like dinosaurs than Archaeopteryx, dated just a bit earlier.  The really dinosaurian “ancestors” of Archaeopteryx such as Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus are dated as much more recent.

There are some evolutionists who have their doubts that birds evolved from the unknown dinosaurs that are supposed to have lived long before them. They have argued that some dinosaurs appear to be flightless descendants of birds similar to Archaeopteryx, precisely because they have a propatagium.  They’ve also noted that there is reason to doubt that birds evolved flight from ground-bound dinosaurs. They think birds more likely evolved from dinosaurs that evolved into tree-climbers first, or maybe from some ancestor of dinosaurs. They point out that how fossils are analyzed and arranged can change depending on which fossils you include, which features are analysed, and how key parts are ranked.

So,  it appears to me that God made different kinds of birds, some of them intended to live with dinosaurs, and so not surprisingly some are more like dinosaurs than living birds. Birds like this one from Spain, however, were a lot like modern birds in many ways, and had the advanced design in their wings for flying like modern birds. There are few if any fossils showing these Mesozoic birds gradually splitting into modern types. Instead, most modern birds appear in fully distinctive forms in layers clearly separated from those with dinosaurs.  Intermediate forms? Yes. Do they show a pattern of dinosaurs evolving into birds? No.



Background info:

Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry

Contributions of the propatagium to avian flight
Richard E. Brown* and Allen C. Cogley

Article first published online: 7 DEC 1998
DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-010X(19961001)276:2<112::AID-JEZ4>3.0.CO;2-R
Journal of Experimental Zoology
Volume 276, Issue 2, pages 112–124, 1 October 1996


J Ornithol
DOI 10.1007/s10336-015-1190-9

Testing the neoflightless hypothesis: propatagium reveals flying
ancestry of oviraptorosaurs
Alan Feduccia1 • Stephen A. Czerkas2
Received: 4 September 2014 / Revised: 31 December 2014 / Accepted: 23 February 2015


Main story:

Home > Other Sciences > Archaeology & Fossils > October 6, 2015

Tiny ancient fossil from Spain shows birds flew over the heads of dinosaurs
October 6, 2015


Original research report:

nature.comscientific reportsarticle

Article | OPEN

Soft-tissue and dermal arrangement in the wing of an Early Cretaceous bird: Implications for
the evolution of avian flight

Guillermo Navalón, Jesús Marugán-Lobón, Luis M. Chiappe, José Luis Sanz & Ángela D.

Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 14864 (2015)
Biomechanics | Palaeontology
Received: 13 April 2015
Accepted: 09 September 2015
Published online: 06 October 2015


Fossil arrangement subject to change:

Ornithological Monographs
Ornithological Monographs No. 66

Published by: The American Ornithologists’ Union


Cladistics and the Origin of Birds: A Review and Two New Analyses
Frances C. James and John A. Pourtless IV

Ornithological Monographs
Ornithological Monographs No. 66

Published by: The American Ornithologists’ Union


Cladistics and the Origin of Birds: A Review and Two New Analyses
Frances C. James and John A. Pourtless IV