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What feathers mean

Why do feathers on the newly discovered compsognathid equal 
bird-ancestor?  Is it not possible that dinosaurs developed certain 
features which paralleled those of birds?

I feel that this raises some rather alarming questions about 
paleontology.  It sometimes seems to me that paleontology is based 
primarily on, frankly, rank speculation based on the flimsiest of 
evidence, although I recognize that the nature of the data doesn't 
exactly allow extensive research.  Still, why is caution so often thrown 
to the wind?  For instance, I heard one scientist declare that 
Tyrannosaurs were cannibals because Sue's face was "torn off," 
apparently, by another Tyrannosaur, and this is probably what killed her! 
 Does this equate?  Couldn't Sue have died and subsequently been 
scavenged by another Tyrannosaur?  Is this really science?  I hope this 
question doesn't rankle, but I love dinosaurs and rely completely on the 
professionals to reconstruct their world for me.  How do you 
paleontologists feel about your own science?

[Ouch.  I fear you're going to catch a bit of heat on this one.  First
 off, you've misunderstood the significance of Sinosauropteryx.
 People are excited about it because they think it's *not* a bird
 ancestor.  Parsimony would then suggest that other dinosaurs had
 feathers as well since the simplest scenario would be that feathers
 evolved before the most recent common ancestor of Aves and the
 Compsognathids.  I'll let others handle the questions about Sue.  I
 expect you to get three or four answers.  -- MR ]

Larry Dunn