New Evidence Finds Dinosaurs Ate Birds
Some scientists believe the supposed “proto-feathers” are really just collagen fibers

New Evidence Finds Dinosaurs Ate Birds

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on December 3, 2011
Featured in News to Know

Last meal is a testament . . . but to what?

News Source

“Preserved indicators of diet are extremely rare in the fossil record; even more so is unequivocal direct evidence for predator–prey relationships.”1 Therefore, proof a dinosaur ate a bird has created quite a stir. Jingmai O’Connor and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have reported “Microraptor provides unique evidence of dinosaurs preying on birds” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. New Scientist reports “the near-intact skeleton of a primitive bird”—an adult enantiornithine—was “nestling suspiciously inside . . . the ribcage of an early Cretaceous winged theropod called Microraptor gui.

That this extinct bird lived in trees is important to the researchers, as their evolutionary conclusions depend upon its “distinctly arboreal”2 habits. If the victim was arboreal, then the predatory Microraptor that swallowed it probably flew well enough to catch it. “The origin of avian flight is heavily debated by paleontologists.”3 O’Connor believes the discovery is a breakthrough showing flight evolved as winged dinosaurs—like Microraptor—glided down from trees learning how to flap. This research therefore takes on greater significance than just assuaging curiosity about extinct edibles.

Not everyone agrees, however, that this prey kept to the trees. For that matter, not everyone agrees the predator was a dinosaur!

Luis Chiappe of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum says, “The fact that Enantiornithes are largely viewed as arboreal animals doesn't mean that they didn't frequent the ground.” The fossil record reveals other enantiornithines in non-arboreal locations.4 This one may have been caught on the ground, leaving Microraptor without proof it could fly. So, was Microraptor flap-running around the forest trying to lift off or gliding down from trees nabbing small birds on the way?5

A Microraptor is built like a biplane with genuine feathers.6 Some scientists are convinced Microraptor’s dragonfly-like wings would not be efficient enough for flight. They suspect Microraptor was therefore a ground-based winged . . . well, winged what? Why do the authors call their feathered predator a dinosaur?

Classification of this truly feathered creature as a dinosaur springs from the determination of evolutionary scientists to link dinosaurs and birds. Calling this four-winged feathered animal a dinosaur does not make it a dinosaur or resolve the many design differences that would make it impossible for a dinosaur to evolve into a bird. Furthermore, not all evolutionary scientists agree Microraptor was a dinosaur.7

We should mention that this fossilized predator, though “largely complete,” is “nevertheless poorly preserved . . . with few clear morphological details.”8 Part of what’s missing is the wings and feathers. However, much of the skeleton is preserved, and the researchers are convinced it is a Microraptor gui.

So does this discovery tell us anything about what dinosaurs ate? Microraptors, with anatomically modern feathers on the upper and lower extremities, appear equipped for flight, at least insofar as having feathers. Of course, some birds fly and some do not. We know Microraptor had modern-appearing feathers arranged in a unique way. No one knows whether it could fly. (That is largely the point of this study.) But as it had ordinary feathers, we would expect to see it flying as a bird if it flew.

God created “every winged bird according to its kind” (Genesis 1:21) on the fifth day of Creation week. He said, “Let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens” (Genesis 1:20). The next day, God made each “beast of the earth, each according to its kind” (Genesis 1:24), including dinosaurs. Birds fully equipped to fly were flying the day before dinosaurs were even created. No evolution was involved.

The fossil record fails to reveal any legitimate transitional forms when labels are applied honestly without convenient revisions of classifications to create transitions by linguistic hocus-pocus.

Dinosaurs did not evolve into birds. Anatomical differences between them make such a transition impossible. No genetic mechanism enabling an organism to acquire information to evolve into a completely new kind has ever been found. The fossil record fails to reveal any legitimate transitional forms when labels are applied honestly without convenient revisions of classifications to create transitions by linguistic hocus-pocus. God created each kind of creature to reproduce after its kind, as science illustrates.

So, did dinosaurs eat birds? There is no reason to think they didn’t or couldn’t. But the evidence from China only shows what was probably a four-winged bird consumed a smaller bird. But these scientists get a lot more mileage from the story if they insist the predator was a dinosaur. After all, they write, “This report of a dinosaur feeding on birds is unique.”9

Before leaving this preserved predator-prey picture, we must comment on the New Scientist’s statement, “The world was a dangerous place for the first birds.” We beg to differ. When God finished creating the world on the sixth day, He said “everything” was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). According to Genesis 1:29–30, the original animals ate plants, not each other. Death did not enter the world until after Adam’s sin. The first birds had nothing to fear.

And as AiG’s Ken Ham pointed out in his recent blog, if dinosaurs—or even Cretaceous birds!—were eating each other millions of years before humans appeared on earth, then death cannot be explained. Christians who compromise with evolutionary assertions about millions of years cannot explain the origin of suffering. Only the Bible’s history in Genesis explains where death and suffering came from. The Bible also offers the solution: Jesus Christ came to pay the price for the sins of mankind, to destroy the works of the devil, and to offer eternal life to all.

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  1. O’Connor, J. et al. 2011. Additional specimen of Microraptor provides unique evidence of dinosaurs preying on birds. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117727108.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Indeed, some of the digits needed to determine the ingested bird’s fitness for arboreal life “cannot be measured in this specimen.” All that was left of dinner was an upper extremity and the still-articulated feet and ankles, not enough to determine what sort of enantiornithine it was. Elsewhere in the fossil record, a Spanish enantiornithine seems to have digested aquatic crustaceans, and a marine ichthyosaur found in Australia consumed an enantiornithine before its own demise. Reference footnote 2.
  5. See “Flap-Running Considered the Link Between Dinosaurs and Flight” and “Winged Robots Look to the Past to Discover Flight.”
  6. See “Did Microraptor gui Invent the Biplane Before the Wright Brothers?
  7. Ibid.
  8. O’Connor, J. et al. 2011. Additional specimen of Microraptor provides unique evidence of dinosaurs preying on birds. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117727108.
  9. Ibid


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