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Latest study: Scientists say no evidence exists that therapod dinosaurs evolved into birds

CHAPEL HILL -- No good evidence exists that fossilized structures found in China and which some paleontologists claim are the earliest known rudimentary feathers were really feathers at all, a renowned ornithologist says. Instead, the fossilized patterns appear to be bits of decomposed skin and supporting tissues that just happen to resemble feathers to a modest degree.

Led by Dr. Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a team of scientists says that as a result of their new research and other studies, continuing, exaggerated controversies over "feathered dinosaurs" make no sense.

"We all agree that birds and dinosaurs had some reptilian ancestors in common," said Feduccia, professor of biology in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. "But to say dinosaurs were the ancestors of the modern birds we see flying around outside today because we would like them to be is a big mistake.

"The theory that birds are the equivalent of living dinosaurs and that dinosaurs were feathered is so full of holes that the creationists have jumped all over it, using the evolutionary nonsense of 'dinosaurian science' as evidence against the theory of evolution," he said. "To paraphrase one such individual, 'This isn't science . . . This is comic relief.'"

A report on the team's latest research appears in the Journal of Morphology published online Monday (Oct. 10). Other authors are Drs. Theagarten Lingham-Soliar of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Richard Hinchliffe of the University College of Wales.

Using powerful microscopes, the team examined the skin of modern reptiles, the effects of decomposition on skin and the fossil evidence relating to alleged feather progenitors, also known as "protofeathers." They found that fossilized patterns that resemble feathers somewhat also occur in fossils known not to be closely related to birds and hence are far more likely to be skin-related tissues, Feduccia sa
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Contact: David Williamson
rdtokids@email.unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
10-Oct-2005


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