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Feathers on a dinosaur as small as a sparrow – WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• How were the dinosaur feathers discovered?
• Also, how old was the dinosaur?
• How did feathers come about?

A PIECE OF AMBER ABOUT THE SIZE OF A DRIED APRICOT was purchased by a Chinese scientist called Xing Lida in a Myanmar market. An inclusion in the amber looked like part of a plant, but was actually the tail of a theropod dinosaur, covered with feathers. The tail of the creature contained at least nine vertebrae, so it definitely was not a bird.

NOTE: the references in this article come from an article in a website called “evolutionistrue”. I do NOT support evolution without the hand of God guiding it (i.e. I believe in intelligent design).

Well, okay, but what’s a theropod? Theropods are a diverse collection of bipedal dinosaurs (i.e. walk on two legs). They include the largest terrestrial carnivores, such as T-rex. Recent studies have conclusively shown that birds are actually the descendants of small non-flying theropods.

The tail specimen in amber, with clearly-defined feathers. (Click to enlarge or to source then back-arrow to return to this article).

THE SPECIMEN TURNED OUT TO BE FROM THE MID-CRETACEOUS ERA, ABOUT 99 MILLION YEARS OLD. Wait…….how old is that? One answer is that it was when the north-south Cretaceous seaway split the north American continent in two, and over time forests of trees were deposited and formed into peat and then coal. And some of these coalbeds exist in the San Juan basin not far from Albuquerque. I spent a large portion of my working life studying these coalbeds and extracting natural gas called coalbed methane. If you ever come to Albuquerque, visit the Natural History Museum which has spectacular displays of the Cretaceous era with its forests and its dinos, and even the extinction of the dinos by a huge asteroid impact 65 million years ago.

THE FEATHERS IN THE AMBER THEROPOD WERE NOT USED FOR FLYING. Maybe for temperature regulation, or just ornamentation. However the bony amber tail belonged to a coelurosaur, a group of feathered dinosaurs from which birds are descended. Based on the tail size, the animal was very small: apparently it could fit in the palm of your hand, and was about the size of a sparrow. Can you imagine a dinosaur with a bony tail that small?

Some color can be discerned in the amber tail feathers suggesting the dinosaur was white and chestnut brown, also like a sparrow.

A and B are pics of the amber dino feathers. C is an evolution interpretation, starting from the left (primitive) and proceeding to the right. In the ellipse is a pic of the dino feather, and shows where the discover says it fits in the middle of the evolutionary scheme. (Click to enlarge or to source, then scroll down, then back-arrow to return to this article).

SO THERE IS AN EVOLUTIONARY TREE PROPOSED FOR FEATHERS, as shown in the image (I had never heard of such a thing). But personally I want to see the forest as well as the tree. Although I do believe in an old earth, including dates like 99 million years ago, the final result is a beautiful dinosaur feather, so beautiful that I find it easy to attribute its design to a creator……God……no matter how it was formed. This is my perspective. Same for a beautiful modern feather in the next image. Note: to me it takes a lot of faith to believe in evolution without the hand of God guiding it.

POST-SCRIPT ABOUT AGE OF FEATHERED DINOSAURS: there is an ongoing debate between YEC proponents (Young-Earth Creationism, earth being less than ten thousand years old) and the majority of scientists who accept the old-earth position (earth being about 5 billion years old.) I may write about this later, but for now if you want to read an example of this debate click here (I understand the author is a Christian who believes in evolution). The article also happens to be about feathered dinosaurs!

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A modern feather, which to me is a wonder of function and beauty. We can appreciate its function if we think about a sparrow flying at speed but suddenly feather-breaking to a graceful landing on the guttering of a house. (Click to enlarge or to source, then scroll down, then back-arrow to return to this article).

Your comment in the Comment box below is always welcome.

The Gray Nomad
Probing the practices of Christian faith

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? And can you lead forth the Mazzeroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth? And can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, “Here we are”? Who has put wisdom in the clouds, or given understanding to the mists? Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cleave fast together? [Book of Job chapter 38].

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11 Responses to Feathers on a dinosaur as small as a sparrow?

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  2. Thank you for this article Ian Palmer. I am tempted to sample some of your past blogs. — Hal Wagnon, I attended your NMSR talk.

  3. Genesis 1:16: “God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night…..the fourth day.” But how can we get to the fourth day when the sun has not yet been created. Genesis has been difficult for me as I can’t believe that the universe (including stars) was created in six days when there is so much scientific evidence that it occurred over a vast period. And that during this time plant and animal species adapted to their surroundings or perished. This evolution continues with humans now being the prime cause of the extinction of many species. I think the Creation story with Adam and Eve were the interpretation of Moses, who wrote them in a simplistic form to enable the understanding of people in that era. I prefer to skip over this book and perhaps focus on Isaiah and Psalms. I love the relevance of the Gospels and Jesus’ teachings. What matters is I believe in the Creator God, because there exists so much beauty, symphony, and intricacy in life forms. For me to believe otherwise is impossible.

    • I appreciate your honesty Bob. Refreshing! I LOved your last sentences: “What matters is I believe in the Creator God, because there exists so much beauty, symphony, and intricacy in life forms. For me to believe otherwise is impossible.”

  4. Interesting blog! I hadn’t heard about the dinosaur feathers. I have trouble believing the earth is 5 billion years old, and I wonder what your Christian friends think about this.

  5. Garrick Little |

    I find so many deficiencies in the evolutionary paradigm it is hard to know where to start. If you include the requirement for evolution to address the question of origins, meaning the beginning of life there is no encouragement to be found suggesting life could arise spontaneously. Francis Crick- the co-discoverer of DNA suggested Panspermia was the only reasonable explanation for how life came to occur on planet earth. As he saw it the only explanation for life to exist was that it was transported here by intelligent aliens as there was no reason to think it could arise spontaneously given the environment here. The more we understand the complexity of cellular processes there is no reason to believe that random molecular processes could result in living things capable of self reproduction.

    Consider the role that DNA plays in the basic operation of the cell. Most people would agree that DNA contains information requiring in turn other structures to interpret it and give it expression in order that processes essential for life can go on. Are we to believe that information (usually thought to be the product of deliberate, intentional thought), could arise spontaneously? Then there is the absence of fossils in the fossil record to provide evidence of the assumed transitional forms to show how new species came into existence.

    The problem is that evolution is not a science even though it is presented as a fact. On what basis is it a fact? Theories worthy of the name are expected to provide a feasible pathway by which progress is made from primitive forms to more and more complex entities- but we see no evidence for this. Evolutionists provide little or no facts to support their theory. They even argue that biological science would cease to exist if evolution was shown to be false. (my words).

    There are many more reasons to challenge the legitimacy of this belief system including a desire to protect evolution from any exposure to arguments that if allowed full expression could expose the paucity of factual data to support evolution. Evolutionists are unwilling in any systematic way to honestly confront the many inconsistencies found in their arguments. So there can be found in textbooks today claims made decades ago but long since discredited that are still presented as fact. This includes Haekel’s drawings of embryos (“ontology recapitulates phylogeny”). Stephen Jay Gould recognised some of these shortcomings and declared they should be addressed in the name of intellectual honesty. I understand his proposal of punctuated equilibrium was to address the inadequacy of Darwinism to address very real weaknesses in the theory particularly the very long periods of time required to bring about even small changes in living things.

      • Hope that helps Ian. You can see I feel strongly about the subject. My major concern is that people of faith do not feel overwhelmed by the message from the major media that there is not even a debate about the subject of origins. On one occasion I had the opportunity to provide information before the Nebraska State board on science standards. This attracted the national media including people from the ACLU. I will never forget one individual who challenged my right to represent the Creationist point as a scientist….. as though the first amendment did not apply in such cases.

    • Garrick, your mention of Francis Crick brought back a memory. Sir Fred Hoyle the British Astronomer published an article in the 1970s…… he did the statistics and concluded that life had to come from outside our planet (much too unlikely that it evolved all by itself).

  6. I am thankful that I have faith in God’s influence in the incomprehensible processes that brought about the formation of this wonderful and complete Earth, which we have as our current home. I believe the Scriptures, when taken as a whole, bear out and confirm my belief. Science does not have to clash with our belief in an all knowing, and all powerful God. It is vain thinking that puts unenforceable limitations on an all-wise and all-powerful God. “For now we now see through a glass darkly”, as Apostle Paul wrote in Fist Corinthians 13:12 KJV. As for Adam and Eve, it is also vain thinking that limits the knowledge of a the man Moses, who talked with God face to face as one man talks with another (given possible errors in translation). In my opinion the creation account is certainly condensed, yet the accounts of the six periods, obviously not 24 hours, are somewhat in sequence with the stages of evolutionary theory. I have thought about the possibility that the sun was obscured by the dense atmosphere that was over the earth; or the understanding of the translators was influence by their current knowledge. I find the whole account interesting, and food for thought. From the creation account, there is much to be added to our understanding of God’s love and devotion to all of nature and mankind. I like the account as given in Genesis; I just try to understand and expand on the condensed version. I appreciate the thoughtful and honest remarks by other regarding this blog. Thanks Ian for your insights given in this blog.

    • Good thinking Don. I loved your words “Science does not have to clash with our belief in an all knowing, and all powerful God.”

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