Monday, October 10, 2005

Phony feathered dinosaurs?

According to a recent article from the Journal of Morphology (subscription required), the integumentary filaments of those famous feathered dinosaurs are nto feathers at all. According to Alan Feduccian and colleagues, the filaments observed are evidence of decaying collagen. Fair enough. This would be very interesting to know, and would be a welcome challenge. The problem is that since Feduccia and company have been embarrassed countless times, they will do most anything to try to save face. This massive, 47-page article in J. Morph. stands as a testiment to their zombie-like resiliance.

While the integumentary filaments of the dinosaurs from eastern China may, in some instances, represent frayed collagen fibers from the sub-epidermal tissues there are a number of patterns which remain to be explained. Chief among them: why don't the countless crocodiles, lizards, and turtles from these sites show similar filaments?. Why is it that only the birds and the dinosaurs from the Jehol biota happen to have these integumentary filaments? Do crocodiles, lizards, and turtles not have these? That would be really interesting since Feduccia et al. referred to specimens of each of these groups for their studies. They provided no comparative evidence from other reptiles from this site that would corroborrate their hypothesis.

Especially interesting is the following statement. Because Feduccia et al. have already decided that birds could not possibly come from dinosaurs, they choose to dispute the phylogenetic position of feathered dinosaurs such as Caudipteryx with this kind of hand-waving:
That phylogenetics has become an assumptionladen
field is best illustrated by the insistence that
the avian wing of Caudipteryx, with its intricate
detailed flight anatomy and avian arrangement of
primary and secondary feathers on the hand and
arm (Fig. 26), evolved in a context other than flight

Well, how convenient. Little do they realize, it doesn't matter if these animals are secondarily flightless birds. The question of explaining the enormous number of characters they share in common with birds remains the important evolutionary question. They have simply chosen to deny the overwhelming character data in favour of their pre-conceived notion that birds could not have descended from dinosaurs.

The absolute icing on the cake is this tacit appeal by Feduccia to creationist reasoning as support for his ideas, from Science Daily:
The theory that birds are the equivalent of living dinosaurs and that dinosaurs were feathered is so full of holes that the creationists have jumped all over it, using the evolutionary nonsense of ‘dinosaurian science’ as evidence against the theory of evolution

This is not just pure bollocks, it's blatantly irresponsible. Thanks a lot Feduccia! Thanks very much for that. While you're at it, why don't you cite the Grand Canyon as evidence against modern geology! Good job!

More on this tomorrow. It's late here.
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