Dinosaur Apeman

on November 21, 2009

BBC News: “Missing Link Dinosaur DiscoveredWe typically think of the “missing link” as an ape–human transitional form. In this case, though, the “missing link” is “big, short-footed, barrel-chested, long-necked, small-headed dinosaur.”

A team of scientists led by the University of Witwatersrand’s Adam Yates has described a new dinosaur fossil found in South Africa. The researchers claim it represents a transitional form that links the earliest, bipedal dinosaurs with sauropods—large quadruped dinosaurs that fed on plants.

We need not accept it as a “missing link.”

Named Aardonyx celestae, the team dates the find to 200 million years ago. “It had a lot of features we see on sauropods,” Yates said. “Short, broad feet, and a big, broad gut, so it was clearly a plant-eater that was bulk-feeding. And the anatomy of the jaw shows it had a wide gape—to stuff more food in.” Further, Yates said the fossil had “sauropod-like front feet,” explaining, “Its toe bones were very robust and solid, so its weight was being born on the inside of the foot.

Despite this evidence, the scientists believe that the dinosaur walked on two legs most of the time, calling it “intermediate between those bipedal forms and the true gigantic sauropods.” Yates explains, “It was still bipedal, but it may have been going down on to all fours to browse.”

One problem is that, according to the evolutionary estimate of the fossil’s age (based on its location in the fossil record), it lived too late to be the actual missing link between bipedal and quadrupedal dinosaurs. Yates explains that at the time the fossil was alive, it was a “living fossil”—a descendant of the actual alleged missing link between dinosaurs that walked on two legs and those that walked on four.

Thus, even the scientists describing Aardonyx believe it lived alongside fully bipedal and fully quadrupedal dinosaurs. So even if we were to agree that Aardonyx walked on two legs some of the time and four legs at other times (i.e., was distinct from other sauropods), we need not accept it as a “missing link.” Instead, it could been created at the same time as other dinosaur kinds, living alongside them from Creation Week—with no evolutionary transitions needed.


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