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National Geographic: “Feathered Dinosaur Had Black Wings? Classic black never goes out of style.
At least one feather from the extinct bird Archaeopteryx was apparently black. But more than that: this supposedly 150–million-year-old fossil feather is a very modern black. Surprised researchers found the minute microscopic structure of the feather “identical to that of modern bird plumage.”
“It means that completely modern flight feathers had evolved as early as 150 million years ago, in the Jurassic period,” says evolutionary biologist Ryan Carney, who led the research team. To determine the original color, Carney’s team used a scanning electron microscope to image the feather. They compared the size and shape of melanosomes—pigment-containing structures—to melanosomes of 115 modern bird feathers. Besides noting the feather’s ultrastructural anatomy appeared completely modern, they found the type and density of melanosomes a good match for modern black feathers.
In an effort to learn how dinosaurs or birds evolved flight, Carney’s team hoped feather color would offer a clue.
In an effort to learn how dinosaurs or birds evolved flight, Carney’s team hoped feather color would offer a clue. Black feathers have a high density of melanosomes, and melanosomes can bind to keratin protein to increase feather strength and durability. “In modern bird feathers, these melanosomes provide additional strength and resistance to abrasion from flight,” Carney said. “With Archaeopteryx, as with birds today, the melanosomes we found would have provided similar structural advantages, regardless of whether the pigmentation initially evolved for another purpose.”1
Even if all the feathers were black, though, Carney notes the “stronger color” would still not indicate whether Archaeopteryx was truly flight-capable or just in training to evolve by gliding down from trees. “Whether it was using its wings for flying or gliding, its feathers would still have been strengthened by having these melanosomes,” Carney said. “This would have been advantageous during this early evolutionary stage of dinosaur flight.”2
Archaeopteryx is an extinct bird with exquisite real feathers identical to those of living birds. Some evolutionists insist the Archaeopteryx is a transitional form because it had teeth, digits on its wings, and a long tail. However, these features occur in other extinct or living birds. Archaeopteryx has long been the object of a tug-of-war between the dinosaur-camp and bird-camp. Some evolutionists call it a “winged dinosaur,” a convenient way to recruit genuine wings and feathers for dinosaurs in the quest to convince people dinosaurs evolved into birds.
That the supposedly 150–million-year-old feather seems to be a perfectly modern feather in every way, down to the smallest detectable detail, should come as no surprise. The idea that dinosaurs evolved into birds or that this creature evolved millions of years ago from anything is unsupportable untestable conjecture. But its modern ultrastructure is consistent with God’s eyewitness account in the book of Genesis. God created birds on the fifth day of Creation week about 6,000 years ago and the dinosaurs and other land animals on the sixth day. He designed all fully functional and able to reproduce after their kinds—able to vary but not to evolve into other kinds of creatures. The marvelous design of the feather did not have to evolve, and flying birds were capable of flight when God made them and said, “Let birds fly above the earth” (Genesis 1:20).
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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.