Did Some “Feathered Dinosaurs” Have “Birdlike Skin”?

by Ken Ham on May 29, 2024
Featured in Ken Ham Blog

“Study: Some Feathered Dinosaurs Had Reptile-Style Scales and Bird-Like Skin with Feathers.” Has a new study really proven, as the headline suggests, that so-called feathered dinosaurs had both reptile and birdlike skin? Well, not quite!

This study looked at the fossilized skin of the “feathered” dinosaur Psittacosaurus under UV light and examined it microscopically (amazingly the skin was so well-preserved that the researchers could examine the various layers and cells of the skin). One of the goals was to discover more about a supposed evolutionary transition that is “poorly understood”—the supposed transition from scaled to feathered skin.

You see, feathers require specialized skin with “complex skin adaptations to facilitate feather growth, flight, and heat regulation.” So a dinosaur can’t “just” evolve feathers (which are very complex structures!), they also have to evolve the skin to go along with those feathers!

Now, Psittacosaurus is considered a so-called “feathered dinosaur” because of a patch of “feathers” located on its tail. And, after examining the dinosaur skin, the researchers announced,

Our discovery suggests that soft, bird-like skin initially developed only in feathered regions of the body, while the rest of the skin was still scaly, like in modern reptiles.

In other words, some parts of this dinosaur had scaly skin like today’s reptiles but the patch with the “feathers” had birdlike skin. So is Psittacosaurus a transitional form in the process of evolving feathers? You might think so based on the popular science summary of the research. But you’ve got to dig a little deeper.

Consider what the actual published paper said:

Collectively, these findings suggest that Psittacosaurus retained the plesiomorphic [inherited from previous supposed ancestors] condition of its scaled reptilian ancestors in non-feathered skin regions. It is reasonable to presume that the skin of feathered body regions, i.e. the tail, exhibited some or all of the modifications related to feather support and movement that characterise the skin of extant birds. This presumed variation in skin structure in Psittacosaurus is consistent with spatial partitioning of gene expression, a phenomenon evident during feather development in extant birds due to activation of regional patterning genes. (emphasis added)

In other words, the researchers studied skin from the scaled parts of the dinosaur’s body and then assumed that the skin of the “feathered” body parts must have been birdlike, because, well, the “feathers” exist so it must’ve had birdlike skin. But they never studied the supposed birdlike skin! Its existence is just an assumption! That’s an interesting detail left out of the popular summary.

Psittacosaurus isn’t some kind of transitional form—it didn’t even have feathers!

Psittacosaurus isn’t some kind of transitional form—it didn’t even have feathers! Because evolutionists have changed the definition of feather to include filaments, they can say this dinosaur had “feathers” when really it had what another study called “bristle-like appendages.”

So this new study tells us nothing about the evolution of bird skin. Rather, it tells us more about the very reptilian skin of an un-feathered dinosaur, Psittacosaurus. All the evolution remains merely in the imagination of the evolutionary scientists.

Get More Answers on Answers News

This item was discussed Tuesday on Answers News with cohosts Roger Patterson, Avery Foley, and Bryan Osborne. Answers News is our weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience here at the Creation Museum, broadcast on our Answers in Genesis YouTube channel, and posted to Answers TV. We also covered the following topics:

  • Warm-blooded dinosaurs?
  • Have we reached a time of “Christian invisibility”?
  • “Pride” month at Target is looking very different this year.
  • And more!

Watch the entire episode of Answers News for May 28, 2024.

Be sure to join us each Monday at 2 p.m. (ET) on YouTube or later that day on Answers TV for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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