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Re: "Feathery fossil shows birds aren't dinosaurs"
Even if they are feathers, I am wondering what kind of logic they could
possibly use to conclude that feathers did not evolve in dinosaurs.
I hope there is more to it than that, or I am going to be very
disappointed in these guys.
P.S. If Feduccia really said "It is upsetting", I'm getting a bucket for
all the crocodile tears.
Subject: "Feathery fossil shows birds aren't dinosaurs"
Date: Thu Jun 22 16:55:57 2000
This week's Science issue is not yet on-line, but here is the Reuters take
on _Longisquama insignis_.
Feathery fossil shows birds aren't dinosaurs-report
Jun 22 2000 3:34PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The ancient fossil of a little tree-climbing reptile
has a frill of feathers that casts doubt on theories that modern-day birds
evolved from dinosaurs, scientists said Thursday.
The 220 million-year-old fossil is 75 million years older than the oldest
known bird, Archeopteryx, the researchers report in the latest issue of the
It has what clearly are feathers that almost certainly were used to glide,
which means dinosaurs are not the direct ancestors of birds, Alan Feduccia
of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who worked on the
``It is upsetting,'' Feduccia said in a telephone interview.
``The idea that one can study dinosaurs at the backyard feeder is a
delusional fantasy, but a lot of our fantasies are just that. It's one of
those terrible facts of life.''
Terry Jones of Oregon State University, who led the study, said the fossil,
named Longisquama insignis, is an archosaur, a reptilian genus that gave
rise to dinosaurs, reptiles and birds. But Longisquama lived side-by-side
with dinosaurs in the Triassic period.
``We can identify certain structures in these fossils that you only find in
feathers and just don't see anywhere else. We're quite sure we're looking
at the earliest feather,'' Jones said in a telephone interview.
``You could easily see that there was this midline spine, which sort of
told us. But more important, what we saw at the base of the feather was
these structures tapered down to a sort of rounded point,'' he added.
``That tapered, rounded point tells us that thing grew within a follicle.
Hair and feathers both grow within follicles but scales do not.''
The skeleton also looks much like a bird, although the creature probably
looked like a lizard, scrambling about in trees. ``The head is birdlike.
The neck is birdlike,'' Jones said.
The frill, made up of 6 to 8 pairs of feathers, acted to help it glide, he
said. And it has a wishbone, a shoulder structure seen in birds. ``It may
have been able to use its arms as a steering apparatus,'' Jones said.
Feduccia compared it to the small flying ``dragons'', of the genus Draco,
found in parts of Southeast Asia, which can expand their ribcages to form
``I think this thing must have been just like one of these little dragons,
gliding around, zipping around from tree to tree,'' he said. ``We imagine
it being a pretty adept glider.''
The fossil was found more than three decades ago in central Asia by a
Russian paleontologist specializing in insects.
``It had been rumored ... that it may have something to do with the origin
and evolution of feathers and maybe even about the origin of birds, but for
most part people pooh-poohed it,'' Jones said in a telephone interview.
When he learned it was coming to the United States as part of an exhibit,
he said, ``I jumped all over it.''
Larry Martin of the University of Kansas said the Russian paleontologist
thought the preserved imprints showed long scales, not feathers.
But had that been the case, ``the slightest breeze would have toppled the
animal over,'' Martin said in a statement.
Jones said the fossil languished for years in Moscow. ``Even after (the
fall of communism) a lot of people in paleontology thought they had it
figured out where feathers came from and where birds came from so there was
no point in going to look at the thing,'' he said.
``These are some amazing fossils, and at the very least they prove that
feathers did not evolve in dinosaurs,'' John Ruben, an Oregon State
University professor of zoology, said in a statement. ``The supposed link
between dinosaurs and birds is pretty entrenched in paleontology, but it's
not as solid as the public has been led to believe.''
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