Friday, 17 July 2015

A new feathered dinosaur from China: the transitional fossils keep piling up

The journal Scientific Reports carries a short article [1] announcing the discovery of a near-complete feathered dinosaur from the early Cretaceous period in China. Zhenyuanlong suni was around 150cm in length, and had long arms with broad feathered wings and a feathered tail. While the evidence for bird evolution from dinosaurs is robust, [2] magnificent discoveries such as this are useful from an educational point of view in that they provide splendid examples of well-preserved dinosaurs with bird-like features that emphatically show their transitional status.

More to the point, it also shows why the YEC view of 'kind' as a biological classification is meaningless. Is this bird kind? Is this dinosaur kind? Clearly fossils such as this break down that naive concept of kind by the fact they stubbornly refuse to fit into an arbitrary classification, which is what you would expect from a transitional fossil, after all.

The holotype of the large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid Zhenyuanlong suni gen et. sp. nov. (JPM-0008).

(A) overview of the skeleton with regions of integument indicated with grey highlight; (B) proximal tail; (C) left forearm; (D) right forearm; (E) closeup of coverts on right forearm.

Artist's Impression


1. Lü, J. and Brusatte, S. L. A large, short-armed, winged dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Cretaceous of China and its implications for feather evolution. Sci. Rep. 5, 11775; doi: 10.1038/srep11775 (2015).
2. Chiape L.M. "Downsized Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary Transition to Modern Birds" Evo Edu Outreach (2009) 2:248-256