From egg-thief to devoted mother to fan-dancer, Oviraptor reputation soars in Vegas.
The Society for Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting in Las Vegas has provided a forum for paleontologists to share their latest findings, including another reputation rehabilitation for Oviraptor. Alberta graduate student Scott Persons presented his research on the misunderstood dinosaur’s tail, producing a visual image sure to make it into animated fantasy features.
When originally discovered dead-on-eggs in 1924, the Oviraptor was thought to be an egg-thief, hence its descriptive name. About 70 years later other oviraptorids were found apparently incubating nests of their own eggs. Those finds repaired the maligned dinosaur’s reputation, if not its name. Only the original fossil is known with certainty to actually be an Oviraptor.
Persons has examined “the tails of various species of Oviraptor” and reports that the tail is shorter than those of other theropods because the bones are densely packed. “The tail of an Oviraptor by comparison to the tail of most other dinosaurs is pretty . . . short,” he said. “But it's not short in that it's missing a whole bunch of vertebrae, it's short in that the individual vertebra within the tail themselves are sort of squashed together. So they're densely packed.” He imagines the close packing of small bones would make the tail flexible enough to wave a feathered tail fan.
Oviraptors, like the rest of the dinosaurs, are not actually proven to have had feathers. There is only one definitive Oviraptor specimen known, and it does not have feathers.
He adds, “If you combine that with having a muscular, very flexible tail, what you have is a tail that could, potentially at least, have been used to flaunt, to wave that tail-feather fan.” He suggests we think of this dinosaur, said by many to be the most bird-like of the non-avian dinosaurs, like a peacock. He further speculates, “If you think about things like peacocks, they often use their tails in courtship displays.”
Oviraptors, like the rest of the dinosaurs, are not actually proven to have had feathers. There is only one definitive Oviraptor specimen known, and it does not have feathers. Of other creatures classified as oviraptorids, at least two are generally conceded to be flightless birds. It is unclear from the published accounts of Person’s presentation which species he examined, but the reports mention evidence of a feathered fan, suggesting he included these birds. But so-called feathered “relatives” of the Oviraptor are just birds, and it is only the unsupportable and unwitnessed presupposition that dinosaurs turned into birds that prompts anyone to call these animals “relatives.” The classification system that groups them together as oviraptorids is, after all, a human invention subject to human bias.
One purported “relative” of the Oviraptor has a pygostyle, a set of fused vertebrae that evolutionists claim evolved into the actual tail feather supporting pygostyle of modern birds. But Persons does not indicate oviraptors had a bird-like pygostyle but rather a very flexible set of tail bones. The implication, of course, is that these closely set vertebrae were on their way to evolving into the bird pygostyle like the one found on its “relative.” Since an evolved trait would need to have some valuable function to be preserved by natural selection, Person’s assertion that the highly flexible muscular tail supported a feather fan to enhance its courtship behavior would supposedly give the creature a reproductive advantage. In truth, however, these dinosaur tails weren’t on their way to becoming anything but part of some really neat fossils.
Person’s assertion that this dinosaur’s tail supported and wafted a feathery fan is also a product of imagination, not facts. There is no reason to assume that the Oviraptor had any feathers to wave any more than there is support for the notion that a flexible set of unfused vertebrae were some sort of pre-pygostyle. Only the determination to connect the evolutionary dots with fanciful lines leads to these sorts of conclusions.
According to the Bible, about 6,000 years ago God created dinosaurs the day after He created birds. Each kind of creature had the features it needed. Attempts to mentally transform dinosaurs into birds are imaginative exercises that ignore their drastic differences (such as the pelvic structures and the respiratory systems). Such suggestions acquire the air of authority when they produce a fanciful picture (like this peacock-o-saurus-like Oviraptor) that will doubtless make it into kids’ schoolbooks. But the genuine authoritative eyewitness account of the origin of dinosaurs and birds is found in the Bible’s first book, Genesis.
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