Found, another missing link: Primitive feathers

Creationists must be brave indeed — or foolish, or non-comprehending — to steam on in the face of almost daily science discoveries.

Some discoveries are bigger than others.  Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science has a good, lay explanation of a recent paper documenting the discovery of a fossil with ancient, simple feathers –– a step in the evolution of feathers that was predicted but had not before been confirmed by fossils.

Until now, their existence was merely hypothetical – this is the first time that any have actually been found in a fossil. Other, more advanced stages in feather evolution have been described, so Beipaiosaurus provides the final piece in a series of structures that takes us from simple filaments to the more advanced feathers of other dinosaurs to the complex quills that keep modern birds aloft.


The simple feathers were discovered by Xu Xing, the famous Chinese palaeontologist who discovered such species as Microraptor and Dilong, among many others. The filaments are longer and broader than those possessed by other dinosaurs and Xu calls them “elongated, broad, filamentous feathers” or EBFFs.

Each is about 10-15cm long and 2mm wide – not exactly thick, but still 10-20 times broader than the simple feathers of Sinosauropteryx. They are also unusually stiff, for despite the rigours of death and fossilisation, very few of them are curved or bent.

In other species of extinct dinosaur, simple feathers probably helped to insulate their bodies. But Beipaiosaurus’s feathers were too patchily distributed to have provided much in the way of insulation and they certainly weren’t complex enough for flight.

Instead, Xu thinks that the animal used them for display – their length and stiffness are well-suited for such a purpose, and they’re only found on parts of the body that bear display feathers in modern birds. They provide strong evidence that feathers were used for display long before they were co-opted for flight.

So, what’s that?  243,694 “missing links,” now found?  243,694 for science, 0 for creationism.  Isn’t there a five-inning rule in science?

It will be interesting to watch the next round of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education, to see what sort of excuse creationists will invent for why this chunk of science isn’t exactly what it seems to be.

6 Responses to Found, another missing link: Primitive feathers

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Why is it a problem that transitional forms lived long after other forms took to the air? That’s as silly as saying that it’s a problem that there are English and French long after the United States and Canada became nations, or as silly as saying there’s a problem that other apes exist after humans arose. It’s not a problem to science.

    There is a serious disagreement among scientists about the evolution of birds — from which branch of dinosaur-era critters? I think most serious students of the actual science, and what the rocks say — God’s rocks, if you’re a fan of Romans 1 — would have difficulty putting archeopteryx in any line as a direct ancestor of birds. One of the chief values of the the seven different species of archeopteryx known is that they make the clear case that there are all sorts of transitionals, even dead end species, and the claims of “no transitionals” are just hoax (a creationist hoaxes).

    As now, you’re saying it’s not a clean transitional because it doesn’t demonstrate a perfect, step-by-step progression from one species to the next. Paleontologists and biologists would regard that as a bizarre statement — who expectes a perfect, step-by-step progression? No one, really, except creationists trying to create straw man arguments or hoaxes.

    It’s not a problem that ancient forms survive. Sharks are incredibly efficient in their present form. That fish evolved further, in other ways, is no problem at all. That’s what evolution theory predicts.

    Evolution theory predicts we will find transitionals even long after some species have made a further transition. It’s not a problem when evolution theory predicts what is later found to be true. I understand it’s a problem for YECs who wish to deny evolution, but it’s what God’s creation shows, and therefore, it must be accurate.

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that most stories of flying reptiles come from China. I don’t think it’s wise to equate stories of giant, flying dragons — featherless and breathing fire — with fossils of creatures that look a lot like modern road runners.


  2. lowerleavell says:

    It’s also interesting that these dino-birds lived in China where most of the legends of flying reptiles came from….Hmmm…it’s almost as if they lived with man. Must be coincidence…


  3. lowerleavell says:

    Ed, here is what hard nosed YEC’s (like me) are saying. I’m particularly interested in how these reptiles got from cold-blooded to warm-blooded and why these fossils are dated as being roughly 20 million years younger than Archaeopteryx, which is far more developed as a flying bird? (It’s a problem if there are “transitional forms” AFTER there are already birds.)

    Interested in hearing your take.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Happy New Year, False! How is it in the world where nothing on Earth is healthy or well, and evolution is, to you, just manifestation of disease?!

    Sometimes I wonder if you have children, whom you regard as pest fungi or something.

    Take a look at Yong’s post. Look at the other stuff on the web on it. Can you find anything to support any of your phantasm proposals?

    Maybe it’s just real science.

    Kuhn was right, though. Creationism won’t die by reason and evidence. We’ll have to wait for the creationists themselves to die.

    Have you seen this cartoon?


  5. evolution is false says:

    its truly amazing to see the religion of the evolution in life and earth to try and prove their point truly ovolution takes mutch more faith,beliefe,acceptance


  6. evolution is false says:

    “elongated, broad, filamentous feathers” or EBFFs.”

    or maybe a bird with some gene problems (like a disease or a disorder)

    but all in all its just a normal bird that they found that is of different species than what to be thought of as a “intermedit”


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