A more complete fossil record is supporting the hypothesis that dinosaurs did indeed evolve into birds and providing intriguing clues about what feathers were initially for.
Image by unforth via Flickr
The scientific debate about how birds got their wings is often held up as “proof” that evolution didn’t really happen. However, most scientists will tell you that the birds of today are the descendants of dinosaurs. The disagreements are about how and why did feathers (and later wings) evolve, which dinosaurs exactly survived and the intriguing fact that there are so many species of birds. There are far more different birds around than there are mammals. Part of the reason these debates have continued for so long is that, due to the fragility of the fossils, our fossil record is terribly incomplete. Nonetheless, new support for the theory that dinosaurs evolved into birds is being discovered all the time.
Scientists found that dinosaurs had feathers—colorful feathers at that—and have begun speculating that they may have used those feathers (at first) to attract mates as well as to warn off predators. They have also discovered that ancestors of modern ducks and chickens lived alongside dinosaurs—meaning that feathered wings were around before a cataclysm destroyed the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
And recently, scientists have mapped the color scheme of a “four-winged troodontid dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic period… and found that color patterns of its limbs which strongly resemble those sported by modern day Spangled Hamburg chickens.” Because this winged dinosaur was so striking (and hence would have found it difficult to hide from predators) scientists believe that it initially used its impressive plumage to both attract mates and warn off predators and only later evolved wings and true flight.
So while there are still questions about exactly how birds evolved from dinosaurs, and the fossil record being discovered paints a messy picture it’s hard to see why Creationists would take such comfort from the messy and incomplete fossil record about birds’ evolution.
“Messy” is not the same as “didn’t happen.”