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The "Ancestor of All Dinosaurs" Might Have Had Feathers Dinofuzz (Updated)

Sciurumimus albersdoerferi.jpg

See below for an update about the quote from Witmer's paper, "Fuzzy origins for feathers," on Caudipteryx, a fossil (which was a bird, not a dinosaur) that did have true pennaceous feathers.

The media that loyally serve Big Science are at it again, overstating the finds of a scientific paper to promote an evolutionary icon. This time, the icon is feathered dinosaurs, representing the purported ancestral relationship between dinos and birds. A recent article in Science News claims, "All dinosaurs may have had feathers," because a newly discovered fossil dinosaur supposedly "sports long, fine plumage." Looking at the find, however, shows that it's nothing more than a classic example of what critics affectionately call "dinofuzz." This is all-but-admitted in the technical paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which states:

Here we report an exceptionally preserved skeleton of a juvenile megalosauroid, Sciurumimus albersdoerferi n. gen., n. sp., from the Late Jurassic of Germany, which preserves a filamentous plumage at the tail base and on parts of the body. These structures are identical to the type 1 feathers that have been reported in some ornithischians, the basal tyrannosaur Dilong, the basal therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus, and, probably, in the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx.

(Oliver W. M. Rauhut, Christian Foth, Helmut Tischlinger, and Mark A. Norell, "Exceptionally preserved juvenile megalosauroid theropod dinosaur with filamentous integument from the Late Jurassic of Germany," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012))

But of course these "type 1 feathers" aren't really true birdlike feathers. As one paper in Nature noted, they are hairlike structures sometimes called "dinofuzz":
And indeed, Tianyulong doesn't have true pennaceous feathers. It has long filaments, very similar to what have been called "protofeathers" or, more non-committally, "dinofuzz." These filaments are evident in some theropods such as Caudipteryx that have true pennaceous feathers, but are also found in a range of other theropods that lack definitive feathers, such as the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx, the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus and the basal tyrannosauroid Dilong.

(Lawrence M. Witmer, "Fuzzy origins for feathers," Nature, Vol. 458:293-295 (March 19, 2009). Note: See my update below for an explanation of why Caudipteryx is irrelevant to understanding this fossil.)

In other words, the fossil structures on this new dinosaur are being compared to those of species that "lack definitive feathers." They are not "true pennaceous feathers," but rather are best viewed as "filaments" or "dinofuzz." So much for the claim that this was a feathered dinosaur. The truth comes out later in the paper:
The protofeathers probably are monofilaments, because no branching patterns are visible in the well preserved, long filaments above the tail; apparent branching patterns in a few places probably are the result of compaction of these structures. Because of the state of preservation, it cannot be established if these structures were hollow.
Likewise, the Science News piece admits at the bottom of the article: "Unlike modern feathers, these 'protofeathers' or 'type 1 feathers' look like simple strands of hair."

Even if this fossil did have feathers, it's still not clear how that would imply "all dinosaurs" might have had feathers. Because this dinosaur comes from a different group from the one that is said to have led to birds, researchers say it "suggests that the ancestor of all dinosaurs might have been a feathered animal." That argument might add up if you make a bunch of evolutionary assumptions -- namely common descent of all dinosaurs in the first place. But this specimen itself is only about 150 million years old -- far later than the time period in which dinosaurs themselves originated. Dinosaurs are thought to have evolved before 230 million years ago, but as a different paper in Science admitted last year, the fossil record doesn't document the evolution of major dinosaur groups:

Tracing the origins of the earliest dinosaurs has been a major challenge for paleontologists because there are no uncontested fossils from their earliest days on Earth. By the time Eoraptor and other undisputed early dinosaurs came on the scene about 230 million years ago, most researchers have concluded, dinosaurs had already evolved into three major lineages: ornithischians, which later gave rise to armored beasts like Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus; sauropodomorphs, the lineage that led to giant plant eaters like Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus; and the meat-eating theropods, such as T. rex and Allosaurus.

(Michael Balter, "Pint-Sized Predator Rattles the Dinosaur Family Tree," Science, Vol. 331: 134 (January 14, 2011) (emphasis added))

Rather than suggesting that all dinosaurs had feathers, this new megalosauroid with its "dinofuzz" suggests something very different: the fact that a group has dinofuzz doesn't necessarily mean it was closely related, or ancestral, to birds.

Update: Note on quote from Witmer's paper, "Fuzzy origins for feathers," regarding Caudipteryx:

I've received a couple of nasty e-mails (and comments, which had to be rejected because they violated our civility policy) because of a blog that pointed out that the quote from the "Fuzzy origins for feathers" paper I offered was incomplete. The full quote is as follows:

And indeed, Tianyulong doesn't have true pennaceous feathers. It has long filaments, very similar to what have been called 'protofeathers or, more non-committally, 'dinofuzz'. These filaments are evident in some theropods such as Caudipteryx that have true pennaceous feathers, but are also found in a range of other theropods that lack definitive feathers, such as the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx, the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus and the basal tyrannosauroid Dilong.

(Lawrence M. Witmer, "Fuzzy origins for feathers," Nature, Vol. 458:293-295 (March 19, 2009))

Critics are upset because initially I used ellipses and omitted the part that stated that dinofuzz is "evident in some theropods such as Caudipteryx that have true pennaceous feathers." So why did I omit that? Is it because I was trying to hide the comment about Caudipteryx's true feathers? No! It's because the new fossil find discussed in the article, Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, is being compared to Sinosauropteryx, Beipiaosaurus, and Dilong, but NOT Caudipteryx. So Caudipteryx is irrelevant to a discussion of Sciurumimus albersdoerferi. And it turns out that Sinosauropteryx, Beipiaosaurus, and Dilong, did NOT have feathers; they had dinofuzz.

Now am I trying to hide the fact Caudipteryx had true feathers? Of course not. In fact, I've discussed Caudipteryx here on Evolution News & Views before at pages including:

So yes, Caudipteryx did have true pennaceous feathers, but as those links above discuss, a number of scientists have argued that Caudipteryx wasn't a dinosaur, but was a bird -- a secondarily flightless bird that had lost its ability to fly. In fact, a pretty impressive list of mainstream scientific authorities have argued Caudipteryx was NOT a dinosaur at all, but was simply a bird. These authorities include: Alan Feduccia[1], Theagarten Lingham-Soliar[1], J. Richard Hinchliffe[1], Storrs L. Olson[2], Terry D. Jones[3], James O. Farlow[3], John A. Ruben[3], Donald M. Henderson[3], Willem J. Hillenius[3], Peter Wellnhofer[4], Teresa Maryaska[5], Halszka Osmólska[5], H. M. Wolsan[5], Frances C. James[6], and John A. Pourtless[6]. So Caudipteryx not a good example of an uncontested feathered dinosaur.

So my reasons for omitting Caudipteryx weren't, in fact, nefarious. Rather, (1) Caudipteryx is irrelevant to a discussion of this new fossil find, Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, which is the topic of my post; and (2) as I've discussed many times before on Evolution News & Views, it's not helpful for those making a case for feathered dinosaurs, and there are strong authorities who don't even think it was a feathered dinosaurs.

In any case, to avoid confusion, speculation, and more nasty e-mails, I've now restored the full quote from Witmer's article. I do wonder why critics get so mad at me for omitting an irrelevant part of a quote, and give a free pass to the news media when it claims a dinosaur fossil had feathers, even though the fossil didn't. Selective outrage? You be the judge.

References Cited:

[1.] Alan Feduccia, Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, and J. Richard Hinchliffe, "Do Feathered Dinosaurs Exist? Testing the Hypothesis on Neontological and Paleontological Evidence," Journal of Morphology, Vol. 266:125-166, 2005.

[2.] http://dml.cmnh.org/1999Nov/msg00263.html

[3.] Terry D. Jones, James O. Farlow, John A. Ruben, Donald M. Henderson, & Willem J. Hillenius, "Cursoriality in bipedal archosaurs," Nature, Vol. 406:716-718, August 17, 2000

[4.] P. Wellnhofer P. 2004. The plumage of Archaeopteryx: feathers of a dinosaur? In: Currie PJ, Koppelhus EB, Martin AS, Wright JL, editors. Feathered dragons: studies on the transition from dinosaurs to birds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p 282-300.

[5.] Maryanska T, Osmolska H, Wolsan HM. 2002. Avialan status for Oviraptorosauria. Acta Palaeontol Pol 47:97-116.

[6.] James FC, Pourtless JA. 2005. Review of: feathered dragons: studies on the transition from dinosaurs to birds. Auk 122:714- 716; Frances C. James and John A. Pourtless IV, "Cladistics and the Origin of Birds: A Review and Two New Analyses," The Ornithological Monographs, Vol. 66:1-78, April 30, 2009.


17 Comments

In response to Jeremy's latest comment, I appreciate that you say, "there seems to be some confusion about what to call the structures that covered the body of Caudipteryx." I agree--there's a lot of confusion in the literature on this. (And if you look at figure 1 of Witmer, 2009, you'll see he claimed Caudipteryx had "filamentous 'protofeathers'," so I was not mistaken.) In any case, as I said previously, I'm open to the possibility that Caudipteryx had both true feathers and dinofuzz. As I explained in a previous comment that doesn't really show anything significant, unless, as you admit, you make “the a priori assumption of evolution.”

I'm not interested in making assumptions, I'm interested in looking at what the evidence says.

In any case, I can’t help but notice that your last comment really didn't address my arguments in about why the observation that Caudipteryx might have had both dinofuzz and true feathers is really quite insignificant. You simply reasserted that it probably had both, quoted Kevin Padian claiming this shows a relationship between the two structures. Padian has no specific evidence for this, it's strictly an assumption. Sure, if birds evolved from dinosaurs then perhaps this is true, but he has no independent evidence of this relationship other than, as you put it, "the a priori assumption of evolution." This is called circular reasoning my friend, and it's not a persuasive argument. The observation that Caudipteryx might have had both feathers and dinofuzz tells us virtually nothing about the larger question of whether birds evolved from dinosaurs.

You claim I had "fuzzy thinking" on these points, but I cited peer-reviewed scientific papers showing that dinosaurs far removed from birds had dinofuzz-like-structures, suggesting that they don't necessarily connect an animal to bird origins.

Sadly, you have also responded with the classic fallback arguments of evolutionists which are lacking in persuasiveness and civility. This includes:

- 1. You claimed I haven't put forth a testable hypothesis about Caudipteryx being a bird, even though my citations below for why Caudipteryx is a bird put forth plenty of testable hypotheses;
- 2. You attempt to attack me personally by making sneers and insinuations about my motives, even though you already admitted, in case you forgot, that “I am willing to accept your explanation for the original omission”;
- 3. You also state that my views differ from the “consensus.”

On the fourth count alone I’ll gladly say “guilty as charged.” Attack me personally however you like, and imply whatever moral accusations you like against me, but there’s no inherent crime in finding the consensus unpersuasive. And while my view that Caudipteryx was a bird might not be the “consensus,” I can cite over a dozen highly credible, and respected, mainstream paleontologists / ornithologists who have agreed that Caudipteryx was a bird. These authorities include:

Alan Feduccia[1]
Theagarten Lingham-Soliar[1]
J. Richard Hinchliffe[1]
Storrs L. Olson[2]
Terry D. Jones[3]
James O. Farlow[3]
John A. Ruben[3]
Donald M. Henderson[3]
Willem J. Hillenius[3]
Peter Wellnhofer[4]
Teresa Marya?ska[5]
Halszka Osmólska[5]
H. M. Wolsan[5]
Frances C. James[6]
John A. Pourtless[6]

Their arguments are testable, and their papers have put forth many testable arguments showing affinities between Caudipteryx and birds. They may not be the “consensus,” but they are a highly credible minority that you can’t dismiss through the standard tactics of personal attacks, etc.

I'm not interested in attacking you personally or making snarky insinuations about your motives--I'm just trying to have a civil conversation. And I can't help but notice that you didn't reply to my arguments, but instead seem very eager and desirous to attack me personally. Why can't evolutionists have a conversation that doesn't (1) assume evolution is true, and (2) attack you personally if you disagree with that assumption?

Despite your attacks, I have no ill will towards you Jeremy, and I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Casey

References Cited:

[1.] Alan Feduccia, Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, and J. Richard Hinchliffe, "Do Feathered Dinosaurs Exist? Testing the Hypothesis on Neontological and Paleontological Evidence," Journal of Morphology, Vol. 266:125–166, 2005.

[2.] http://dml.cmnh.org/1999Nov/msg00263.html

[3.] Terry D. Jones, James O. Farlow, John A. Ruben, Donald M. Henderson, & Willem J. Hillenius, "Cursoriality in bipedal archosaurs," Nature, Vol. 406:716-718, August 17, 2000

[4.] P. Wellnhofer P. 2004. The plumage of Archaeopteryx: feathers of a dinosaur? In: Currie PJ, Koppelhus EB, Martin AS, Wright JL, editors. Feathered dragons: studies on the transition from dinosaurs to birds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p 282–300.

[5.] Maryanska T, Osmolska H, Wolsan HM. 2002. Avialan status for Oviraptosauria. Acta Palaeontol Pol 47:97–116.

[6.] James FC, Pourtless JA. 2005. Review of: feathered dragons: studies on the transition from dinosaurs to birds. Auk 122:714– 716; Frances C. James and John A. Pourtless IV, "Cladistics and the Origin of Birds: A Review and Two New Analyses," The Ornithological Monographs, Vol. 66:1-78, April 30, 2009.

Dear Diogenes,

Diogenes made several comments and I will be replying to him in a single comment.

First, it's unfortunate that you claimed that I "squelched" your comments in another thread. I haven't been monitoring that thread closely (I can't spend all day making comments), but I have seen to it that your comments were all posted. Nobody is squelching anything here--and it's unfortunate that you are making these false accusations, and have not retracted them on this forum.

Second, let me say thanks for honoring my request for citations of supposed feathered dinosaurs. It's easy to copy and paste a URL to a wiki and then tell people they're ignorant. It's much harder to make an argument, and so I appreciate that you've tried to make one in your most recent post, even if you did basically copy and paste a list, essentially entirely verbatim, from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feathered_dinosaur)

You're welcome to copy and paste from Wikipedia, and we'll weigh that evidence accordingly. But why didn't you acknowledge your source?

In any case, you cited many papers. As I'm traveling currently and away from the library I don't have access to many of them, I'm obviously not going to be able to comment on all of them. But that's not necessary. Many of those species I was already familiar with, and I can already say definitively that a number of these fossils are NOT feathered dinosaurs.

Many of the species you listed have nothing more than dino-fuzz--just like the fossil I discussed in this original article here. Your calling them "feathered dinosaurs" is as inaccurate and uncalled for as the newsmedia articles that have been calling Sciurumimus a "feathered dinosaur." For all your boldness, you are bluffing.

So the problem with many of your examples of feathered dinosaurs is that they're either not feathered, or they're not dinosaurs.

Not Feathered:
Here are some examples of fossils you listed that are famous for their dinofuzz, and as far as I'm aware do not have feathers. (Some of these we've already discussed in this thread):

- Sinosauropteryx
- Beipiaosaurus
- Dilong
- Tianyulong
- Sciurumimus
- Sinornithosaurus
- Psittacosaurus

Feduccia et al. (2005)'s lengthy analysis in the Journal of Morphology[1] makes persuasive arguments about many of these having dino-fuzz, not feathers.

Not Dinosaurs:
Many other fossils you cite are disputed as being dinosaurs, and are thought to be feathered birds:

- Archaeopteryx: You (I mean Wikipedia) admit this is "possibly avialan"; That's an understatement: most scientists have believed it is a bird.
- Wellnhoferia: Again you (I mean Wikipedia) admit it is "possibly avialan"
- Caudipteryx: As we've discussed, many feel this is a bird.
- Protarchaeopteryx: Feduccia and others feel this is similarly situated to Caudipteryx--a bird
- Microraptor: Feduccia makes some strong arguments it's a bird.[1]

Many citations could be given for authorities who doubt these are dinosaurs but think these are feathered birds. As Storrs Olson, Curator of Birds National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution:

"Obvious birds (Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx) have been described as dinosaurs"

His letter is worth reading:

http://dml.cmnh.org/1999Nov/msg00263.html

Others That Aren't Feathered:
Another fossil you cite, Pelecanimimus, is forcefully disputed to have had feathers by Feduccia et al., who write:

"Other exceptionally well-preserved theropods with integument have been discovered in recent years, including an unnamed theropod from Brazil, and as noted above, the Lower Cretaceous Spanish ornithomimosaur Pelecanimimus, and there is nothing remotely resembling feathers."[1]

And another 5 or 6 of the examples you give are "inferred" to be feathered dinosaurs from quill knobs or pygostyles, meaning feathers haven't been found. And as I discussed in another comment, other fossils like Protoavis have similar features which, if they are quill knobs, would logically decimate the feathered dinosaur hypothesis.

You contest this claim that Protoavis had quill knobs and feathers, because Witmer argues its "quill knobs could be artifacts" of post-mortem damage. Perhaps, but we could say much the same about the "quill knobs" on your feathered dinosaur species. Isn't it convenient that when quill knobs fit the feathered dino hypothesis, they're real, but when they don't, they're "artifacts"?

As for your arguments about my taking Witmer as an authority, you make a bizarre argument which suggests that if I cite just one of his papers favorably, I am obligated to view Witmer as inerrant at all times. (In fact if you read my prior comments, you'll see I questioned some aspects of that one paper.) In any case, I'm sure Witmer is a qualified expert, but I judge people's arguments based upon their merits. If Witmer's arguments are compelling, I accept them. If not, I don't. Unless you believe Witmer to be inerrant, there's nothing wrong with my finding his arguments persuasive in some cases, and not-so-persuasive in others.

Then, you make a false claim about Chatterjee questioning the notion that Protoavis had quill knobs. You claim that Chatterjee, the discoverer of Protoavis, admits regarding Protoavis "that its feathers are uncertain". You cite Chatterjee's book "The Rise of Birds" as documenting this--which is amazing since the whole purpose of the book is to hold out Protoavis as a TRUE bird.

Chatterjee cites MANY features, well beyond feathers, which support his arguments about Protoavis being a bird.

In any case, you are wrong that Chatterjee is questioning whether Protoavis had quill knobs. He admits that some on the ulna are "uncertain" but is very forceful that others on the handbones clearly are quill knobs. Here's the "uncertain" quote:

"Like living birds, Protoavis acquired two independent and specialized methods of locomotion, flying with the forelimbs and walking with the hindlimbs. Protoavis was an obligatory biped, as indicated by the development of the swivel wristjoint, which would restrict the hand movement for terrestrial locomotion. The forelimb developed a linkage system at the elbow and wrist joints and was modified into a collapsible wing. The humers of Protoavis is remarkably avian. ... The ulna is a curved bone with an olecranon process at the proximal end. The shaft is damaged and bears a series of faint bumps similar to quill knobs, but their identity is uncertain." (Ref [2], pp. 53-54)

Ok, that's just one bone, the ulna, where the quill knobs are "uncertain"--but on other bones he's far more certain. Consider what he says about quill knobs on the wrist and hand bones--he doesn't sound uncertain:

"Both metacarpals II and III appear to fuse at the ends to form a large intermetacarpal apce. They bear a series of quill knobs for the attachment of primary feathers. There are about seven quill knobs, arranged alternatively on the dorsal surfaces of metacarpals II and III. Unlike modern birds, Protoavis shows that both metacarpals might have supported primary feathers in alternate fashion, while metacarpal IV provided lateral support for the shaft of the feathers." (Ref [2] p. 55)

He further says about the quill knobs on these hand bones:

- "The hand bones show quill knobs for the attachment of primary feathers." (Ref [2] p. 9)
- "Quill knobs for secondary feathers." (Ref [2] p. 14)
- "The presence of feathers is inferred indirectly from the development of quill knobs in the hand." (Ref [2] p. 80)
- "The metacarpals show quill knobs for attachment of the primary feathers." (Ref [2] p. 217)

So again, I call your bluff: I see no evidence from Chatterjee's 1997 book "The Rise of Birds" that he has fully backed away from the claim that Protoavis had quill knobs. This strongly suggests Protoavis was a bird.

And keep in mind, again, the implications of this 225 million year old fossil being a feathered bird. As Benton states:

“However, if Protoavis is a bird then the point of origin of the group moves back to the late Triassic, and that would distort many parts of the phylogeny, not only of birds, but also of Dinosauria in general.”[3, internal citations removed]

In other words, Protoavis effectively precludes the possibility that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs. And Chatterjee has won over some admission of support for his view. Consider what this 1991 paper in Science stated:

“His reconstruction also shows a flexible neck, large brain, binocular vision, and, crucially, portals running from the rear of the skull to the eye socket—a feature seen in modern birds but not dinosaurs"[4]

So the evidence for the quill knobs on Protoavis is very strong, and you were wrong about Chatterjee's statements in his 1997 book.

You seem to have selective acceptance of quill knobs--when it supports the feathered dino theory, then it's obviously a quill knob; when it doesn't, reject it and use a shrill tone.

There's also the distressing problem that there's a lot of suspicion cast over these alleged feathered dinosaur fossils. Consider what Mark A. Norell and Xing Xu wrote in a major review article in Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science letters in 2005:

"Feathered dinosaurs have appeared with amazing frequency in the past several years. Unfortunately, some of this has been driven by their financial rather than scientific value. What this means is that many, if not most, of the specimens that appear from the Jehol are excavated by local farmers. In the best-case scenario, Chinese institutions have acquired these; however, many specimens are smuggled out of the country or disappear into private Chinese collections. There is also a substantial amount of chicanery involved related to the 'improvement' or faking of specimens. Sometimes, even parts of multiple specimens have been cobbled together into chimaeras. This was most apparent with the case of Archaeoraptor, which was pitched as a definitive feathered missing link between dinosaurs and birds. After a great deal of embarrassment to those involved, this specimen was shown conclusively to be a chimera. Some of these fakes and doctored specimens have been used to discredit the validity of actual feathered dinosaurs by both scientists and antiscience creationists (a simple online search shows just how damaging this affair was).(Ref. [5], internal citations removed)"

Of course they still believe in feathered dinosaurs, and they go on to list multiple ones in their paper they claim to be legitimate, many of which are the same flawed examples you list here. But their points about doubts about these types of fossils need to be considered.

I'm not saying that any of the fossils you've cited are definitively fakes. But I do think that there's a major mismatch between your triumphalistic and shrill tone and what the evidence says. I think you are compensating for the fact that a lot of people have made very strong claims based upon weak evidence.

The shrill tone of your comments bring to mind some comments I read by Alan Feduccia about the overly emotive rhetoric of advocates of feathered-dinosaurs:

"With respect to both questions, namely, feathered non-avian dinosaurs (theropods) giving rise to birds and the follicular origin of the feather, a careful analysis of the component evidence here shows extensive and serious weaknesses, which include weak paleontological methodology (for instance, the concepts of decomposition, taphonomy, and the laws of chance have been almost entirely disregarded). Clearly, the purported 'overwhelming' evidence for the origin of birds from dinosaurs is filled with a good deal of emotion as, e.g., illustrated by Sues’ comment: 'Most paleontologists accept this evidence [close morphological relationship between theropod dinosaurs and birds]. Only a small (if vocal) group continues to argue that birds have no clear relationship to dinosaurs.' Numerous statements by Prum, such as 'it is universally agreed,' and 'conclusive evidence of the strongest possible,' and 'wealth of and increasing strength of the evidence,' characterize comments by the advocates of the dinosaurian origin of birds. It is necessary to try to avoid such emotive comments including arguments as to how many people may agree or not agree with a particular hypothesis since the argument could degenerate further into an equally nonconstructive response that most ornithologists support a non-dinosaurian origin of birds. This article, if anything, is to urge that scientific equanimity prevails." (Ref [1], internal citations removed)"

Having covered some serious scientific weaknesses in claims of feathered dinosaurs, I feel that my purpose here in this thread is to urge same.

Thanks.

sincerely,

Casey

References Cited:


[1.] Alan Feduccia, Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, and J. Richard Hinchliffe, "Do Feathered Dinosaurs Exist? Testing the Hypothesis on Neontological and Paleontological Evidence," Journal of Morphology, Vol. 266:125–166 (2005).

[2.] Sankar Chatterjee, The Rise of Birds: 225 Million Years of Evolution (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).

[3.] Michael J. Benton, 1998. "The quality of the fossil record of vertebrates." pp. 269-303, in Donovan, S. K. and Paul, C. R. C. (eds), The adequacy of the fossil record. Wiley, New York

[4.] Alun Anderson, “Early Bird Threatens Archaeopteryx’s Perch,” Science, Vol. 253:35 (July 5, 1991).

[5.] Mark A. Norell and Xing Xu, "Feathered Dinosaurs," Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 33: 277-99 (2005).

p.s. regarding Diogenes's breathless allegations that I "altered" a quote from the ScienceNews article...that's a bizarre allegation. I didn't alter any quotes from that article. And the sections Diogenes now quoted support my claim that Sciurumimus was like Sinosauropteryx, a fossil known for its non-feather dinofuzz. It's always amusing when evolutionists find scandals and conspiracies behind every little jot and tittle that an ID proponent writes...but in this case, sorry to disappoint, but there's no scandal and there's no conspiracy. Your colleagues's desire to find such, and make endless streams of personal attacks, probably says more about you than it says about me.

Diogenes, I think any fair-minded person who compares ENV to the major pro-Darwin blogs such as "Panda's Thumb" and "Pharyngula" will find our site positively mild by comparison. We're certainly not perfect, but given the level of vituperation regularly hurled at those on our side, I think we are pretty temperate in response. I looked at the two articles you cited. I think the actual text of the "Darwin's Cowards" article is pretty much on-point considering what is being responded to. But I think I agree that the title isn't helpful. As for the photo of the mouse, I thought the mouse was rather cute. Regarding the other article, I think the sentence you cite does cross the line, and I will discuss it with the author. However, the rest of the article was exceptionally civil in my view, especially given that it was responding to some very nasty personal attacks from someone who apparently hadn't even read the Science and Human Origins book he was denouncing. I hope that you will agree that calling us an "execrable propaganda mill," "notoriously dishonest," and comparing us to mass murderer Jim Jones is not appropriate for reasoned discourse.

Rich, I don't think the statement you cite is particularly snarky (snarky defined as "crotchety" or "snappish," which is Webster's first definition), nor does it attack the motives of specific people, nor is it false. But I appreciate the input, and will make sure that the Editor of ENV reads it.

Casey asked:

"And what if a fossil has both dino-fuzz and true feathers? Does that imply some that the two structures are related? Without the a priori assumption of evolution, why should it?"

You wrote a blog post about the dinosaur/bird ancestral relationship, something that you called an "evolutionary icon." I pointed out that the presence of both pennaceous feathers and filaments in a specimen like Caudipteryx is consistent with the evolutionary hypothesis that birds are a subset of dinosaurs. Let's not play games, Casey. We can't consider evolutionary questions without the a priori assumption of evolution.

Casey asked:

"Could you kindly provide a reference for the claim that Caudipteryx had protofeathers this outside of Witmer's short summary article?"

Actually, I said that Caudipteryx had "filaments" not "protofeathers." In fact, there seems to be some confusion about what to call the structures that covered the body of Caudipteryx:

[1] They are called "small, plumulaceous feathers" in the Nature article by Quiang, et al. (1998).
[2] They are called "isolated filamentous tufts" in an essay by Padian, et al. (2001).
[3] They are called "filamentous protofeathers" in the Nature article by Witmer (2009).

Whatever these structures are called, there is evidence suggesting they were formed from the consolidation of individual Sinosauroptyerx-like filaments (see Padian, et al., 2001). Therefore, the filamentous structures covering the body of Caudipteryx could actually represent a possible intermediate stage between individual filaments and modern feathers.

And yes, the presence of both these filamentous tufts and pennaceous feathers in the same specimen DOES imply that the two structures might be related through descent with modification from an ancestral integumentary structure. Indeed, evolutionary theory leads to the following testable hypothesis:

"Either the pennaceous feathers found on the wings and tail of Caudipteryx are modified versions of the filamentous tufts that are found covering other parts of the body, or both the pennaceous feathers and filamentous tufts are modified versions of simpler, filamentous integumentary structures."

It would appear that further investigation and additional fossil evidence is needed to test the predictions that this hypothesis generates. I have neither the time nor the expertise to comment further. I'll leave that to the experts.

I will note, however, that you have not proposed a testable alternative hypothesis to explain the origin of feathers, other than to promote the claim that Caudipteryx might actually be a secondarily flightless bird. In other words, you are willing to argue that a bird evolved into something that looks just like a dinosaur in order to counter the notion that dinosaurs evolved into birds. Since "snarky comments about people's motives" are not allowed here, I'll just note that your choice of counter-argument seems, well...interesting.

In summary, I don't think your stated reason for omitting the reference to Caudipteryx in your original post was justified. The Caudipteryx fossil evidence is indeed relevant to a discussion of the evolutionary hypothesis that birds are the direct descendants of theropod dinosaurs. The consensus view is that Caudipteryx is a theropod with an interesting mix of dinosaur- and bird-like anatomical features. In order to justify your decision, you have put forth an alternative explanation that differs from the consensus view. Not only that, your proposed alternative actually requires a significant amount of evolutionary descent with modification to turn a bird into a theropod. Strangely, this kind of modification is something you apparently will not accept in the opposite direction.

I'm afraid Troy Britain was right, Casey. Your thinking about fuzzy creatures (be they dinosaurs or birds) is indeed fuzzy.

New Reference Cited:

Padian K., Qiang Ji., Shu-an Ji. (2001). Feathered dinosaurs and origin of flight. Mesozoic vertebrate life. Eds. Tanke D.H., Carpenter K. Bloomington: NRC Research Press. p. 117–135.

Yes John, I now see that my (very long) comment was posted. I was mistaken when I assumed it would be squelched. Thank you for posting it in full.

However, it is certainly a double standard to assert that "Snarky comments about people's motives" are not permitted, considering what is written here at ENV every single day, day in, day out, and weekends.

Remember what David Klinghoffer wrote here quite recently?

"So it goes with the community of Darwin boosters. Their ranks are heavy with bullies and their leaders are almost all cowards, who flee from a fair fight on the merit of the ideas that are up for debate." [http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/06/when_you_cant_a061271.html]

How about the post entitled "Darwin's Cowards", illustrated with a photo of a crouching mouse hiding in a log?
[http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/05/darwins_cowards_1059851.html]

So if I'm un-civil, from whom did I learn it? ENV and UD. How about if we establish the rule: whatever you do, I can do?

Now back to science. Casey, ARN and ENV are now promoting the "collagen fiber" hypothesis for proto-feathers, a hypothesis whose proponents have been shown to be wrong on the very facts which they assert are essential to supporting their hypothesis.

The collagenists argue by analogy to Varanus [monitor lizard] which has collagen fibers in its skin, asserting that the fibers become spread out during decomposition. The problems with this are many:

1. In Sinosauropteryx, there are approximately 10 filaments preserved per millimeter, a very dense pelage. Alan Feduccia 1999 was wrong about fiber density.

There are beautiful photos of Sinosauropteryx proto-feathers at Troy Britain's blog, alas not reproduced here [See: http://pigeonchess.com/2012/07/16/fuzzy-thinking-about-fuzzy-dinosaurs/]!

No decomposing Varanus has collagen fibers like that! Compare Plate 1A and 1C in Kevin Padian et al (in Tanke & Carpenter 2001) to the figure of dermal collagenous fibers in Varanus (Feduccia 1999, 378). This goes for both Sinosauropteryx and NGMC 2123.

2. The alvarezsaur Shuvuuia deserti has identical integumentary structures (proto-feathers), which have been shown by chemical tests performed by Schweitzer et al (1999) to have been composed of beta-keratins, and could therefore not be dermal in origin.

3. None of the dromaeosaurs with proto-feathers under consideration here are known to live in a semi-aquatic environment, so the analogy to Varanus is invalid.

4. Lingham-Soliar (2003a, 2003b) argued by analogy to an ichthyosaur fossil that had alleged collagen fibers in its skin.

Lingham-Soliar hypothesizes: "two possible scenarios are envisaged in Sinosauropteryx: either the bundles of tightly strung ligaments broke contact with the vertebrae during post-mortem decay and came to lie alongside the caudal vertebrae, or the skin possessed masses of strengthening fibers or rays vertically orientated to the long axis of the body" (2003a, pg. 6).

No. If this hypothesis were true, the collagen fibers would lie along the midline. In fact, Sinosauropteryx has tufts of integument in many places, not just along the midline.

To quote EvoWiki: "As Prum (2002) and Prum & Brush (2002) rightly ask, are we to believe that Beipiaosaurus had a 50-70 mm long ligament on its ulna? That NGMC 91 had a 35 mm ligament on its snout?"

5. Furthermore: in feathered dromaeosaurids, the integument is clearly external to, and reaches far beyond, the skin and bone (e.g. Sinornithosaurus cp.) In Lingham-Soliar's decayed ichthyosaur, the collagen fibers overlap bone or lie medial to the skin surface.

RETURN TO CAUDIPTERYX. JUST A BIRD?

And now I will return to the alleged "flightless bird".

The Ruben & Jones 2000 paper asserting that Caudipteryx was just a [flightless] bird was out of date quite soon after publication, as new Caudipteryx material became available (Zhou & Wang 2000, Zhou et al 2000). Caudipteryx looks just like an oviraptor. To get technical, it has multiple characters synapomorphic of Oviraptorosauria, to name one, the presence of a mandibular fenestra.

References:
Feduccia, A. 1999. The Origin and Evolution of Birds, Second Edition. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Lingham-Soliar, T. 2003a. Evolution of birds: ichthyosaur integumental fibers conform to dromaeosaur protofeathers. Naturwissenschaften 90: 428-432.

Lingham-Soliar, T. 2003b. The dinosaurian origin of feathers: perspectives from dolphin (Cetacea) collagen fibers. Naturwissenschaften 90: 563-567.

Padian et al. 2001. Feathered dinosaurs and the origin of flight. In: Tanke, D. H. & K. C. Carpenter (eds.), Mesozoic Vertebrate Life: 117-133.

Prum, R. 2000. Longisquama fossil and feather morphology. Science 291 (5510): 1899c.

Prum, R. 2002. The evolutionary origin of feathers and diversification of feathers. The Quaterly Review of Biology 77(3): 261-295.

Ruben, J. & Jones, T. D. 2000. Selective factors associated with the origin of fur and feathers. American Zoologist 40(4): 585-596.

Schweitzer et al. 1999. Beta-keratin specific immunological reactivity in feather-like structures of the Cretaceous alvarezsaurid, Shuvuuia deserti. Journal of Experimental Zoology 285: 146-157.

Zhou, Z. & Wang, X. 2000. A new species of Caudipteryx from the Yixian Formation of Liaoning, northwest China. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 38: 111-127.

Zhou et al. 2000. Important features of Caudipteryx—Evidence from two nearly complete new specimens. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 38: 241-254.

John West - you say "...Snarky comments about people's motives (or false claims about ENV's moderation policies) are not appropriate...".

Why then does the article lead off with "The media that loyally serve Big Science are at it again, overstating the finds of a scientific paper to promote an evolutionary icon."?

Thanks,

Rich

It's unfortunate, but alas instructive, that certain Darwinists find it difficult to defend their position without resorting to ad hominem or otherwise personal attacks. For the record, Diogenes, Evolution News and Views does NOT "edit" people's comments, nor did Casey suppress your post on junk DNA. As explained in our comment policy, we do moderate comments for spam and civility. Hence, sometimes there is a delay in posting comments because our limited staff doesn't have the time to immediately look at submitted comments. Although we don't edit comments, we ARE serious about enforcing the rules of civility. Vigorous presentation of scientific evidence and arguments are welcome. Snarky comments about people's motives (or false claims about ENV's moderation policies) are not appropriate. I've allowed some of your recent posts because they do make some substantive arguments, which are welcome here. But they also contain comments that are basically false personal attacks. I would like to make clear that if you continue to include the uncivil material, future comments will NOT be posted.

And now about Protoavis. Casey says that we can't trust the quill knobs on Velociraptor because there are supposedly quill knobs on Protoavis, too. This makes no logical sense. We know that feathers make quill knobs on living specimens. So Velocirapter still has feathers, and that's that. Casey cannot deny this.

So Casey's logic still implies that Velociraptor is a big, bad, scary bird, but it's a bird with a mouthful of dagger-like teeth, and huge ripping claws on its feet that it can use to disembowel you. Also, its vertebrae enter the skull from behind, not from below like in a bird; and no pygostyle; and etc. etc. etc. etc. long list of dinosaurian properties. A big bird, sure.

However, regarding Protoavis, the quality of the specimen is totally different from Velociraptor-- Protoavis was a mashed, disarticulated skeleton, highly decomposed, and most probably a chimera composed of different species washed together in a flash flood (rear part of the skull an early coelurosaur(?), arms and legs from ceratosaurs.)

Moreover, re-analysis of the specimens by Lawrence Witmer (whom Luskin trusts as an authority) shows it is uncertain that Protoavis had quill knobs anyway; the specimen suffered enormous postmortem damage and the "quill knobs" could be artifacts of that damage. See: Paul, G.S. (2002). Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Even the author of the Protoavis paper, Chatterjee, who pushed its status as a bird, admits that its feathers are uncertain: Chatterjee, S. (1997). The Rise of Birds: 225 Million Years of Evolution. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Now in the OP here, Casey Luskin cites Witmer as an authority. When Witmer says that Protoavis' apparent "quill knobs" are due to postmortem damage, does Casey still consider Witmer an authority?

I replied to Casey (who accused me of not citing my sources; apparently he cannot click on my hyperlink) with a list of 34 feathered dinosaurs and scientific citations for every one of them. My comment is still awaiting moderation. Let's see what happens to that detailed info.

Next let's examine Casey's other quotes. He also altered his other quote about dino feathers. Here is the original quote in full, again from Troy Britain's blog post that, uh, clarifies Casey's, uh, issues here.

You will notice that Casey deleted the end of the sentence including the phrase "like the filaments found in other dinosaurs." He deleted the end of the sentence and replaced the comma there with a period. He can't just use an ellipsis like an honest quote miner?

So apparently, Casey thinks it is relevant, important, crucial and critical that Sciurumimus' proto-feathers cannot be shown to be hollow filaments. However, Casey also thinks it is irrelevant, unimportant and trivial that other dinosaurs have proto-feathers that have been shown to have hollow filaments.

Here is the actual quote, from Troy Britain's, uh, clarification of Casey's uh, altered quotes.

"The protofeathers probably are monofilaments, because no branching patterns are visible in the well-preserved, long filaments above the tail; apparent branching patterns in a few places probably are the result of compaction of these structures (16). Because of the state of preservation, it cannot be established if these structures were hollow, LIKE THE FILAMENTS FOUND IN OTHER DINOSAURS (3, 14). The thickness of these filaments is ~0.2 mm in the long filaments in the dorsal tail region and less in the shorter filaments at the tail flank, back, and belly of the animal; the filaments are comparable in size to the filamentous protofeathers found in Sinosauropteryx (14). (Rauhut et al. 2012, p. 4)."

So if hollow filaments are missing from a dinosaur's proto-feathers, Casey says that is relevant, important, crucial and critical.

But if hollow filaments are present in a dinosaur's proto-feathers, Casey thinks it is irrelevant, unimportant and trivial.

Yes, ID is totally different from creationism. Not the same at all.

Casey accuses me of not citing my claims. First, I included a hyperlink which Luskin chose not to read (see: http://evolutionwiki.org/wiki/Downy_Dinos), which has 36 citations and a detailed discussion of so-called "collagenous fibers" and the lousy "secondarily flightless bird" hypothesis.

Second, ENV blog strictly edits their comments, which is a strong disincentive for us to put time into them. If you spend hours copying in citations, your comment won't be published anyway, so why should we bother copying in citations? I certainly learned that, after Casey squelched my detailed takedown of Wells' Myth of the Myth of Junk DNA (see: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/07/what_are_the_to_1062011.html). So why should we bother copying in citations?

But Luskin asks for citations for my claim of 32 species of feathered dinosaurs. It's now 34 anyway. OK, I will copy them in, and let's see if Luskin REALLY wants citations.

1. Archaeopteryx lithographica (1861; possibly avialan)

von Meyer, H. (1861). Archaeopteryx litographica (Vogel-Feder) und Pterodactylus von Solenhofen. Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geognosie, Geologie und Petrefakten-Kunde. 1861: 678–679, plate V.

Xing Xu, Hailu You, Kai Du and Fenglu Han (28 July 2011). "An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae". Nature 475 (7357): 465–470. DOI:10.1038/nature10288.

2. Wellnhoferia grandis (1988; possibly avialan)

Xing Xu et al. (Ibid.) (2011).

Wellnhofer, P. (1988). "A new specimen of Archaeopteryx". Science 240 (4860): 1790–1792. DOI:10.1126/science.240.4860.1790

3. Pelecanimimus polydon? Perez-Moreno B. P., Sanz J. L., Buscalioni A. D., Moratalla J. J., Ortega F., Raskin-Gutman D. (1994). "A unique multitoothed ornithomimosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain". Nature 370: 363–367.

4. Sinosauropteryx prima. Ji Q., Ji S. (1996). "On discovery of the earliest bird fossil in China and the origin of birds". Chinese Geology 10 (233): 30–33.

5. Protarchaeopteryx robusta. Ji Q., Ji S. (1996). "On discovery of the earliest bird fossil in China and the origin of birds". Chinese Geology 10 (233): 30–33.

6. GMV 2124. Ji, Q.; and Ji, S. (1997). "Advances in Sinosauropteryx research". Chinese Geology 7: 30–32.

7. Caudipteryx zoui. Currie, Philip J.; Qiang, Ji; Norell, Mark A.; Shu-An, Ji (1998). Nature 393 (6687): 753–761. DOI:10.1038/31635

8. Shuvuuia deserti. Schweitzer, M.H.; Watt, J.A.; Avci, R.; Knapp, L.; Chiappe, L.; Norell, M.; Marshall, M. (1999). "Beta-keratin specific immunological reactivity in feather-like structures of the Cretaceous Alvarezsaurid,Shuvuuia deserti". Journal of Experimental Zoology 285 (2): 146–57.

9. Sinornithosaurus millenii Wu, Xiao-Chun; Xu, Xing; Wang, Xiao-Lin (1999). Nature 401 (6750): 262–266. DOI:10.1038/45769

10. Beipiaosaurus inexpectus. Xu, Xing; Tang, Zhi-lu; Wang, Xiao-lin (1999). "A therizinosauroid dinosaur with integumentary structures from China". Nature 399 (6734): 350–354. DOI:10.1038/20670

11. Caudipteryx dongi. Zhou, Z.; Wang, X. (2000). "A new species of Caudipteryx from the Yixian Formation of Liaoning, northeast China." Vertebrata Palasiatica 38 (2): 113–130.

12. Caudipteryx sp. Zhou, Z.; Wang, X.; Zhang, F.; Xu, X. (2000). "Important features of Caudipteryx - Evidence from two nearly complete new specimens." Vertebrata Palasiatica 38 (4): 241–254.

13. Microraptor zhaoianus. Xu, Xing; Zhou, Zhonghe; Wang, Xiaolin (2000). "The smallest known non-avian theropod dinosaur" Nature 408 (6813): 705–708. DOI:10.1038/35047056.

14. NGMC 91. Ji, Qiang; Norell, Mark A.; Gao, Ke-Qin; Ji, Shu-An; Ren, Dong (2001). "The distribution of integumentary structures in a feathered dinosaur". Nature 410 (6832): 1084–1087. DOI:10.1038/35074079.

15. Psittacosaurus sp.? Mayr, Gerald; Peters, Stefan; Plodowski, Gerhard; Vogel, Olaf (2002). "Bristle-like integumentary structures at the tail of the horned dinosaur Psittacosaurus". Naturwissenschaften 89 (8): 361–365. DOI:10.1007/s00114-002-0339-6

16. Yixianosaurus longimanus. Xu X., Wang X.-L. (2003). "A new maniraptoran from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of western Liaoning". Vertebrata PalAsiatica 41 (3): 195–202.

17. Dilong paradoxus. Xu, X., Norell, M. A., Kuang, X., Wang, X., Zhao, Q., Jia, C. (2004). "Basal tyrannosauroids from China and evidence for protofeathers in tyrannosauroids". Nature 431 (7009): 680–684. DOI:10.1038/nature02855.

18. Sinornithosaurus haoiana. Liu, J., Ji, S., Tang, F. & Gao, C. (2004). "A new species of dromaeosaurids from the Yixian Formation of western Liaoning". Geological Bulletin of China 23 (8): 778–783.

19. Pedopenna daohugouensis (2005; possibly avialan)

Hone D.W.E., Tischlinger H., Xu X., Zhang F. (2010). Farke, Andrew Allen. ed. "The extent of the preserved feathers on the four-winged dinosaur Microraptor gui under ultraviolet light". PLoS ONE 5 (2): e9223. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0009223

Xu, Xing; Zhang, Fucheng (2005). "A new maniraptoran dinosaur from China with long feathers on the metatarsus". Naturwissenschaften 92 (4): 173–177. DOI:10.1007/s00114-004-0604-y

20. Jinfengopteryx elegans.

Ji Q., Ji S., Lu J., You H., Chen W., Liu Y., Liu Y. (2005). "First avialan bird from China (Jinfengopteryx elegans gen. et sp. nov.)". Geological Bulletin of China 24 (3): 197–205.

Turner, Alan H.; Pol, Diego; Clarke, Julia A.; Erickson, Gregory M.; and Norell, Mark (2007). "A basal dromaeosaurid and size evolution preceding avian flight". Science 317 (5843): 1378–1381. DOI:10.1126/science.1144066

21. Juravenator starki.

Goehlich U.B., Tischlinger H., Chiappe L.M. (2006). "Juraventaor starki (Reptilia, Theropoda) ein nuer Raubdinosaurier aus dem Oberjura der Suedlichen Frankenalb (Sueddeutschland): Skelettanatomie und Wiechteilbefunde". Archaeopteryx 24: 1–26.

Chiappe, Luis M.; Göhlich, Ursula B. (2010). "Anatomy of Juravenator starki (Theropoda: Coelurosauria) from the Late Jurassic of Germany". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie - Abhandlungen 258 (3): 257–296. DOI:10.1127/0077-7749/2010/0125

22. Sinocalliopteryx gigas. Ji S., Ji Q., Lu J., Yuan C. (2007). "A new giant compsognathid dinosaur with long filamentous integuments from Lower Cretaceous of Northeastern China". Acta Geologica Sinica 81 (1): 8–15.

23. Anchiornis huxleyi. Xu, X., Zhao, Q., Norell, M., Sullivan, C., Hone, D., Erickson, G., Wang, X., Han, F. and Guo, Y. (in press). "A new feathered maniraptoran dinosaur fossil that fills a morphological gap in avian origin." Chinese Science Bulletin, 6 pages, accepted November 15, 2008.

24. Tianyulong confuciusi? Zheng, Xiao-Ting; You, Hai-Lu; Xu, Xing; Dong, Zhi-Ming (2009). "An Early Cretaceous heterodontosaurid dinosaur with filamentous integumentary structures". Nature 458 (7236): 333–336. DOI:10.1038/nature07856.

25. Xiaotingia zhengi. Xing Xu, Hailu You, Kai Du and Fenglu Han (28 July 2011). "An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae". Nature 475 (7357): 465–470. DOI:10.1038/nature10288.

26. Yutyrannus huali. Xu, Xing; Wang, Kebai; Zhang, Ke; Ma, Qingyu; Xing, Lida; Sullivan, Corwin; Hu, Dongyu; Cheng, Shuqing et al. (2012). "A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China". Nature 484 (7392): 92–95. DOI:10.1038/nature10906.

27. Microraptor hanqingi. En-Pu Gong, Larry D. Martin, David A. Burnham, Amanda R. Falk and Lian-Hai Hou (2012). "A new species of Microraptor from the Jehol Biota of northeastern China". Palaeoworld in press. DOI:10.1016/j.palwor.2012.05.003

28. Sciurumimus albersdoerferi. Rauhut, O. W. M.; Foth, C.; Tischlinger, H.; Norell, M. A. (2012). "Exceptionally preserved juvenile megalosauroid theropod dinosaur with filamentous integument from the Late Jurassic of Germany". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1203238109.

And now, four feathered dinosaurs inferred from quill knobs.

29. Velociraptor mongoliensis (inferred 2007: quill knobs) Turner, A.H.; Makovicky, P.J.; and Norell, M.A. (2007). "Feather quill knobs in the dinosaur Velociraptor" Science 317 (5845): 1721. DOI:10.1126/science.1145076

30. Avimimus portentosus (inferred 1987: quill knobs)

Kurzanov, S.M. (1987). "Avimimidae and the problem of the origin of birds." Transactions of the Joint Soviet-Mongolian Paleontological Expedition, 31: 5-92. [in Russian]

Chiappe, L.M. and Witmer, L.M. (2002). Mesozoic Birds: Above the Heads of Dinosaurs. Berkeley: University of California Press, 536 pp.

31. Rahonavis ostromi (inferred 1998: quill knobs; possibly avialan)

Agnolin, F.L.; Novas, F.E. (2011). "Unenlagiid theropods: are they members of the Dromaeosauridae (Theropoda, Maniraptora)?" Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 83: 117–162. DOI:10.1590/S0001-37652011000100008.

Forster, Catherine A.; Sampson, Scott D.; Chiappe, Luis M. & Krause, David W. (1998a). "The Theropod Ancestry of Birds: New Evidence from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar". Science 279 (5358): 1915–1919. DOI:10.1126/science.279.5358.1915.

32. Concavenator corcovatus? (inferred 2010: quill knobs?) Ortega, Francisco; Escaso, Fernando; Sanz, José L. (2010). "A bizarre, humped Carcharodontosauria (Theropoda) from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain". Nature 467 (7312): 203–206. DOI:10.1038/nature09181.

And now two feathered dinosaurs inferred from pygostyles.

33. Similicaudipteryx yixianensis (inferred 2008 from pygostyle; confirmed 2010)

He T., Wang X.-L., Zhou Z.-H. (2008). "A new genus and species of caudipterid dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of western Liaoning, China". Vertebrata PalAsiatica 46 (3): 178–189.

Xu, Xing; Zheng, Xiaoting; You, Hailu (2010). "Exceptional dinosaur fossils show ontogenetic development of early feathers". Nature 464 (7293): 1338–1341. DOI:10.1038/nature08965

34. Nomingia gobiensis (inferred 2000: pygostyle) Barsbold R., Osmólska H., Watabe M., Currie P.J., Tsogtbaatar K. (2000). "New Oviraptorosaur (Dinosauria, Theropoda) From Mongolia: The First Dinosaur With A Pygostyle." Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 45 (2): 97–106.

In response to Diogenes, your comment does not leave very much to respond to.

Your only argument against the paper I cited from Nature which argued Caudipteryx is a bird is the fact that it’s from the year 2000. You claim that makes it outdated. That’s not much of a response.

Moreover, there are other more recent papers that make similar arguments that allegedly feathered dinosaurs are really secondarily flightless birds. I would commend you to read Feduccia's paper I cited in my response to Jeremy which makes some forceful responses to the claim that these birds were "feathered dinosaurs". Here’s the citation:

Alan Feduccia, Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, and J. Richard Hinchliffe, "Do Feathered Dinosaurs Exist? Testing the Hypothesis on Neontological and Paleontological Evidence," Journal of Morphology, Vol. 266:125–166 (2005).

The arguments he uses are hardly "circular," but are based upon a simple, clear arguments regarding the many affinities that these allegedly "feathered" dinosaurs have to secondarily flightless birds.

You assert, without any citation, that "There are currently 32 species of feathered dinosaurs, some with exquisitely well-preserved feathers."

It's pretty hard to respond to that statement given that you provide zero citations to back it up, and only mention one species name—Velociraptor. For the record, Velociraptor hasn’t been found with feathers, just ambiguous “quill knobs” which is different from finding feathers. And if you’re going to accept that Velociraptor has “quill knobs,” then you are forced to accept that other fossils had feathers—fossils which destroy the dinosaur-to-bird hypothesis. As I explain here:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/09/inconsistent_reasoning_governs038061.html

If all it takes to establish feathers are a few quill knobs, then why exclude a fossil called Protoavis, with many other birdlike features, from having feathers? Protoavis' discoverer Sankar Chatterjee wrote, "The presence of feathers is inferred indirectly from the development of quill knobs." (Chatterjee, The Rise of Birds. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997)

So why do many scientists oppose Protoavis being a bird, or at least being related to birds? The reasoning against Protoavis being a bird, again, is governed by evolutionary considerations. As Michael Benton explains, it would wreak havoc with standard evolutionary story:

“However, if Protoavis is a bird (Chatterjee, 1995), then the point of origin of the group moves back to the late Triassic, and that would distort many parts of the phylogeny, not only of birds, but also of Dinosauria in general.” (Michael J. Benton, 1998. "The quality of the fossil record of vertebrates." pp. 269-303, in Donovan, S. K. and Paul, C. R. C. (eds), The adequacy of the fossil record. Wiley, New York)

In other words, the problem with Protoavis is that it appears in the fossil record around the same time as the earliest dinosaurs. If it's a bird, then it seems highly unlikely that birds are descended from dinosaurs. In fact, in such a case it wouldn't be clear what birds are descended from. This scenario is obviously disfavored by many evolutionists. They accept quill knobs as being evidence of feathers when it fits the evolutionary paradigm, but reject such reasoning when it overturns leading theories.

In any case, your comment is so full of unbacked assertions and vague boastings about rumors of falsified predictions that you give almost nothing to respond to.

I'm not sure what your quip about Ken Ham has to do with anything. I've never been to his museum and I have no idea what he's written on this topic. You seem to be responding to arguments I didn't make (about sequence and ordering problems)--as if you were hoping I'd make them. If you wish to provide citations to back up your arguments rather than making unbacked assertions, weird comments about creationists, and responding to arguments I didn't make, then perhaps we can have a dialogue.

Thanks.

sincerely,

Casey

Dear Jeremy,

No, I didn't misunderstand your point--I understand that you think it's a big deal if Caudipteryx had both protofeathers and true feathers, I just didn't think it was an important enough point to respond to. In fact, I'm surprised if you make such heavy reliance on this as an argument for the dinosaurian ancestry of birds.

The notion that Caudipteryx might have had "dino-fuzz" doesn't really show hardly anything. As Feduccia, Lingham-Soliar, and Hinchliffe explain in a 2005 paper in the Journal of Morphology, many "many animals" which even evolutionists agree are not ancestral to birds have features which could arguably leave fossil remains like dino-fuzz. They write:

"We describe integumental structures, very similar to 'protofeathers,' preserved within the rib area of a Psittacosaurus specimen from Nanjing, China, an ornithopod dinosaur unconnected with the ancestry of birds. These integumental structures show a strong resemblance to the collagenous fiber systems in the dermis of many animals."[1]

So the fact that a fossil has collagenous hair-like fiber structures may be completely unremarkable, and may say nothing about a close relationships to birds.

And what if a fossil has both dino-fuzz and true feathers? Does that imply some that the two structures are related? Without the a priori assumption of evolution, why should it?

It's worth noting that Feduccia et al. do note that there ARE some fossils with both pennaceous feathers and dino-fuzz, though he doesn't mention Caudipteryx as being one of them. And it’s also noteworthy that the ones that they do identify are argued to be birds:

"The presence of true pennaceous feathers in microraptors (to be discussed later) often preserved along with ‘dino-fuzz’ on the same specimens has produced a confusion that has muddled the entire field. As will be noted below, these microraptors are almost certainly remnants of the early avian radiation and are thus birds and not true theropod dinosaurs."

Feduccia and his co-authors further observe that even some modern birds have features which could be mistaken as having protofeathers:

"It should give one pause to realize that if a modern kiwi were discovered in the lacustrine deposits of the Early Cretaceous of China, it would most assuredly be considered a theropod dinosaur, illustrating an early stage in the evolution of flight from the ground up, and adorned with protofeathers and all stages of feather evolution."

So the fact that protofeathers and more advanced feathers are found on a single animal could be fully consistent with the hypothesis that the animal was nothing more than a bird. After all, that’s exactly what Caudipteryx appears to have been. So if Caudipteryx did have both protofeathers and true feathers, that doesn’t pose any kind of a challenge to skeptics of the dinosaur-bird hypothesis.
Feduccia et al.'s article is worth a read as a review of the strong arguments why the feathered-Caudipteryx is NOT a dinosuar, but is really a flightless bird.

In any case, Jeremy claims Caudipteryx had both protofeathers and true feathers--but I'm having trouble finding primary documentation of that claim. I re-read original main Nature report on Caudipteryx[2] and did not see any mention of the fossil having proto-feathers or "dino-fuzz" like structures. I also read some other papers about Caudipteryx, and one by Alan Brush about Caudipteryx stated: "The feathers on these specimens are recognizable as symmetrical primaries and semiplumes on the body"[3] -- but there was no mention of protofeathers or "dino-fuzz" on this fossil. (Brush mentioned it on other fossils, so I would assume he would have mentioned it on Caudipteryx if it were there.)

The only source I can find that claims Caudipteryx had both types of feathers is Witmer's little Nature article that sparked this discussion. Yes, he clearly says Caudipteryx had protofeathers/dinofuzz, but I've now read all 3 citations he gives for that statement, and NONE of them claim Caudipteryx has protofeathers.[4] Could it be a mistake to claim that Caudipteryx had "dinofuzz"?

Nonetheless, I'm willing to believe that Caudipteryx might have had protofeathers / dinofuzz--it certainly wouldn’t do much to help the hypothesis that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs. Could you kindly provide a reference for the claim that Caudipteryx had protofeathers this outside of Witmer's short summary article? I'm not able to find one.

In any sum, this is what where we seem to be:
- Dinofuzz / protofeather-like structures might exist on many creatures, including animals not thought to be closely related to birds, and birds themselves. So dinofuzz doesn’t necessarily say much about relationships to birds.
- True feathers obviously do show a close connection to birds. But according to dino-bird skeptics like Feduccia and his colleagues, anything with true feathers is arguably a bird, not a dinosaur.
- It’s not clear that Caudipteryx did have protofeathers, but if it did, that might make it no different from living birds like the Kiwi. In other words, that could further establish that it’s a bird.

In any case, I’ll close with this observation: it would be much more interesting to find a dinosaur with feathers than it is to find a non-dinosaur (or a bird) with protofeather/collagen fiber like structures. So far, you've only got the latter. It's not at all clear that why this should say anything about birds evolving from theropod dinosaurs.

Thanks.

Sincerely,

Casey

References Cited:

[1.] Alan Feduccia, Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, and J. Richard Hinchliffe, "Do Feathered Dinosaurs Exist? Testing the Hypothesis on Neontological and Paleontological Evidence," Journal of Morphology, Vol. 266:125–166 (2005).

[2.] Ji Qiang, Philip J. Currie, Mark A. Norell & Ji Shu-An, "Two feathered dinosaurs from northeastern China," Nature, Vol. 393:753-761 (June 25, 1998).

[3.] Alan H. Brush, "Evolving a Protofeather and Feather Diversity," American Zoologist, Vol. 40:631-639 (2000).

[4.] The 3 citations given are:

Ref. 3: Mark A. Norell and Xing Xu, "Feathered Dinosaurs," Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 2005. 33:277–99 states: "On more advanced animals like Caudipteryx, we see fully developed pennaceous feathers, and well-developed remiges and retrices." It makes no mention of protofeathers or "dinofuzz" on Caudipteryx.

- Ref. 4: Zhang Fucheng, Zhou Zhonghe and Gareth Dyke, "Feathers and ‘feather-like’ integumentary structures in Liaoning birds and dinosaurs," Geological Journal, Vol. 41: 395-404 (2006): This paper also does not claim Caudipteryx had protofeathers or dinofuzz, although it does recognize that Caudipteryx had "downy feathers." If it was a bird, as Feduccia and others suggest, this would be unsurprising.

- Ref. 10 is not about Caudipteryx.

Casey,

Your argument that Caudipteryx is "just a bird" has major problems. Caudipteryx is a theropod.

First, in the ENV post that you link to, your evidence is cited as: Cursoriality in bipedal archosaurs. Terry D. Jones, James O. Farlow, John A. Ruben, Donald M. Henderson & Willem J. Hillenius. Nature 406, 716-718 (17 August 2000) | doi:10.1038/35021041.

But this outdated 2000 paper cannot prove Caudipteryx is a bird. First, their reasoning is that "it [is] a striking coincidence that the only unambiguously feathered theropod was also the only known theropod likely to have utilized locomotory mechanisms identical to those of cursorial birds."

But we know now many unambiguously feathered theropods, including Velociraptor. There are currently 32 species of feathered dinosaurs, some with exquisitely well-preserved feathers.

Moreover, those authors who claim that dinosaurs did not evolve into birds (Alan Feduccia, Ruben & Jones, Hellenius, etc.) have made a number of falsified predictions that have left them with egg on their faces. They have had to make huge phylogenetic back-flips, changing their stories and contradicting themselves to an extraordinary extent, ditching old stories and concocting new, ever more complicated ones.

First, every one of them (esp. Feduccia) claimed for many years that Archaeopteryx was the only feathered dinosaur.

Then, when a few feathered dinosaurs were discovered, they claimed that the obvious feathers were not feathers-- despite the fact that in some cases actual birds are found in the same strata with the feathered dinosaurs, and the preserved feathers look the same on the birds as on the dinosaurs.

Then, after MANY feathered dinosaurs had been discovered, they flipped and said OK, the feathers are feathers, but then the dinosaurs can't be dinosaurs! That means, among other things, that *ALL* maniraptoran dinosaurs, like Velociraptor, are no longer dinosaurs! That's *DOZENS* and *DOZENS* of species re-classified at a pop!

Their evidence being, that they "just know" dinosaurs can't have feathers. Perfect circular logic. If it's a dinosaur, they "just know" it can't have feathers. If they can no longer deny feathers, they "just know" it can't be a dinosaur.

Their *NEW* theory is that birds evolved from some other archosaur many, many tens of millions of years earlier, and yet left no fossil record for a very long time.

Then some birds evolve to be flightless, very big, and structurally identical to coelurosaurs, by convergent evolution.

So Casey, these authors admit that maniraptoran dinos (or "secondarily flightless birds" or whatever you call them) are structurally practically identical to coelurosaurs. We've all heard the story about how Archaeopteryx was mistaken for compsognathus before people noticed its feathers.

But their story is that the near-structural identity is caused by huge amounts of perfect convergent evolution that "just happened" to make them look exactly like coelurosaurs.

Now what's wrong with this? Well, first, we have to re-classify all the maniraptoran dinosaurs in one pop, now they're all super-evolved birds that just happen to look exactly like coelurosaurs.

Second, what will happen tomorrow and the day after? What if we find Alvarezsaurs had feathers? Oops, soon we will say that all the Tetanurae were birds. Where will it end? T. Rex is a big, bad bird? Spinosaurus is a bird?

Moreover, that's tens of millions of years during which "birds" leave no fossils at all, until (by a coincidence) they evolve to look just like coelurosaurs. Then by an amazing coincidence, at that moment they reappear in the fossil record! What luck! They waited around to make fossils for tens of millions of years, just to confuse paleontologists!

(And you can't respond by citing the "temporal paradox." There is no "temporal paradox." Every major class of maniraptoran dinosaur appears in the fossil record before Archaeopteryx; Anchiornis being particularly well-preserved.)

Now Casey, do you really want to tell your kids that Velociraptor is not a dinosaur?

So Casey, to sum up, I congratulate you for copying Ken Ham's "it's just a bird" display at the Kentucky Creation Museum! It makes our job much easier when IDers and creationists copy-n-paste from each other.

All these issues, including Feduccia's and Ruben & Jones' ideas about convergent evolution and their self-contradictions, are covered in great detail at EvolutionWiki:

http://evolutionwiki.org/wiki/Downy_Dinos

Thanks for responding, Casey. However, you seem to have missed my point entirely.

The important point is that Caudipteryx had BOTH filaments and pennaceous feathers. The simultaneous existence of these structures in the anatomy of any organism from the Cretaceous is consistent with the idea that birds (which are characterized by pennaceous feathers) are a subset of dinosaurs (which are known to have possessed filaments). It makes very little difference whether Caudipteryx is classified as a dinosaur or as a bird.

In other words, Caudipteryx is entirely relevant to a discussion of Sciurumimus. They both exhibited the filaments known as "dinofuzz"--the very topic of your post!

Unfortunately, your original post omitted that important detail. I'm guessing the reason that your post generated such a heated response is because your omission seemed all too convenient.

I am willing to accept your explanation for the original omission, even though I disagree with your assertion about the irrelevancy of Caudipteryx. But if you really wanted to exclude Caudipteryx from comparison with Sciurumimus, you could have done so in your original post. Why needlessly open yourself up to criticism by intentionally removing the middle of a sentence? I have a guess as to what the answer might be, but I will keep it to myself.

Surely you can understand why people get angry with you about this kind of stuff.

Jeremy,

I just added an update as follows to the post above which addresses your question. As you will see, my reasons for omitting part of the quote had nothing to do with trying to hide anything about Caudipteryx. Here's what I wrote:

I've received a couple of nasty e-mails (and comments, which had to be rejected because they violated our civility policy) because of a blog that pointed out that the quote from the "Fuzzy origins for feathers" paper I offered was incomplete. The full quote is as follows:

"And indeed, Tianyulong doesn't have true pennaceous feathers. It has long filaments, very similar to what have been called 'protofeathers or, more non-committally, 'dinofuzz'. These filaments are evident in some theropods such as Caudipteryx that have true pennaceous feathers, but are also found in a range of other theropods that lack definitive feathers, such as the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx, the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus and the basal tyrannosauroid Dilong."

(Lawrence M. Witmer, "Fuzzy origins for feathers," Nature, Vol. 458:293-295 (March 19, 2009).)

Critics are upset because initially I used ellipses and omitted the part that stated that dinofuzz is "evident in some theropods such as Caudipteryx that have true pennaceous feathers." So why did I omit that? Is it because I was trying to hide the comment about Caudipteryx's true feathers? No! It's because the new fossil find discussed in the article, Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, is being compared to Sinosauropteryx, Beipiaosaurus, and Dilong, but NOT Caudipteryx. So Caudipteryx is irrelevant to a discussion of Sciurumimus albersdoerferi. And it turns out that Sinosauropteryx, Beipiaosaurus, and Dilong, did NOT have feathers; they had dinofuzz.

Now am I trying to hide the fact Caudipteryx had true feathers? Of course not. In fact, I've discussed Caudipteryx here on Evolution News & Views before at pages including:

Is the Latest "Feathered Dinosaur" Actually a Secondarily Flightless Bird?
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/11/is_the_latest_feathered_dinosa013131.html

Of Whale and Feather Evolution: Nature's Two Macroevolutionary Lumps of Coal
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/08/of_whale_and_feather_evolution037221.html

So yes, Caudipteryx did have true pennaceous feathers, but as those links above discuss, a number of scientists -- including the authors of a Nature paper -- have argued that Caudipteryx wasn't a dinosaur, but was a bird -- a secondarily flightless bird that had lost its ability to fly. So it's not a good example of an uncontested feathered dinosaur.

So my reasons for omitting Caudipteryx weren't, in fact, nefarious. Rather, (1) Caudipteryx is irrelevant to a discussion of this new fossil find, Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, which is the topic of my post; and (2) as I've discussed many times before on Evolution News & Views, it's not helpful for those making a case for feathered dinosaurs, and there are strong authorities who don't even think it was a feathered dinosaurs.

In any case, to avoid confusion, speculation, and more nasty e-mails, I've now restored the full quote from Witmer's article. I do wonder why critics get so mad at me for omitting an irrelevant part of a quote, and give a free pass to the news media when it claims a dinosaur fossil had feathers, even though the fossil didn't. Selective outrage? You be the judge.

Casey quotes:

"And indeed, Tianyulong doesn't have true pennaceous feathers. It has long filaments, very similar to what have been called 'protofeathers' or, more non-committally, 'dinofuzz.' These filaments ... are also found in a range of other theropods that lack definitive feathers, such as the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx, the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus and the basal tyrannosauroid Dilong."

As pointed out by Troy Britain on his blog, the original quote has been edited to remove some additional detail (emphasis added):

"And indeed, Tianyulong doesn’t have true pennaceous feathers. It has long filaments, very similar to what have been called 'protofeathers' or, more non-committally, 'dinofuzz.' These filaments **ARE EVIDENT IN SOME THEROPODS SUCH AS CAUDIPTERYX THAT HAVE TRUE PENNACEOUS FEATHERS, BUT** are also found in a range of other theropods that lack definitive feathers, such as the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx, the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus and the basal tyrannosauroid Dilong."

The missing part of the quote shows that both "dinofuzz" and true birdlike feathers are known to have existed simultaneously in the anatomy of other dinosaurs. Evidence like this is important when discussing the evolutionary origin of feathers. After all, if a dinosaur had BOTH long filaments AND pennaceous feathers, it points to the possibility that the structures ARE actually related.

Why did you remove such an important detail, Casey?