Were fossil dinosaur feathers really found near the South Pole?
Dino-bird evolution frequently causes excitement on social media platforms so my attention was grabbed by a picture of a fully feathered dinosaur with a sensationalist National Geographic headline that read, “In a first, fossil dinosaur feathers found near the South Pole”.1 However, what had actually been found differed so significantly from the headline that words such as overreaching speculation and grandiose story-telling immediately came to mind. In what follows, I have broken down the article’s salient points to highlight the highly misleading nature of National Geographic’s claims.
Fact – The research team described ten exquisitely preserved 10–30 mm long fossil feathers, found from 1962 onwards over multiple digs in the Koonwarra Fossil Bed, south-eastern Australia.2 The feathers include downy feathers, contour body feathers, a complex juvenile flight feather “like those on the wings of modern birds”, and one that they refer to as a ‘protofeather’.
Speculation – They allege that the feathers are 118 million years old, some of which belonged to ground-dwelling carnivorous dinosaurs. Conventionally, this ‘dates’ from the early Cretaceous period when they believe that the landmass of Australia was joined with Antarctica, before drifting north to its current location. This is why they have fossil feathers coming from near the “South Pole” in their article title, rather than Australia, to make the story even more sensational. Although they think Antarctica would not have been as cold as it is today, they speculate that, “feathers may have been important for insulation, allowing small carnivorous dinosaurs to survive the difficult winter months.”
“None of the feathers are currently associated with distinct dinosaur or bird bones”—National Geographic.
With what type of dinosaur did they find the feathers? – “None of the feathers are currently associated with distinct dinosaur or bird bones. Instead, they were probably lost during molting or preening and drifted on the wind onto the surface of an ancient lake, where they sank to the bottom and were preserved in the fine mud.”
What they would like to find in the future? – “To actually find the skeleton of a feathered dinosaur here in Australia would be amazing,” said Dr Stephen Poropat, a paleontologist at Swinburne University, Melbourne. It appears that we can agree on something: amazing it would be!
Imposed Ideology – The National Geographic article tries to reinforce the current evolutionary idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs. This is done by use of a spurious picture of a fully-feathered dinosaur (which is simply made up) and the misleading headline. The details in the actual article do not begin to support the idea that dinosaurs evolved into birds, nor even that dinosaurs had feathers (although the creation model does not necessarily rule this out). he reality is this is simply one more case of paying homage to the altar of naturalistic evolution.
Geological context – The research team presented no direct evidence whatsoever that the feathers did not belong to birds. And they must have been rapidly covered in sediment to preserve them. They have been found in a sedimentary rock layer laid down by water in Australia. The fossil bed also contained numerous other animals: freshwater ray-finned fish, lungfish, various insects, arachnids and other terrestrial invertebrates, aquatic insect larvae, hydrophilid beetles, and horseshoe crabs. Plant fossils were found as well: mosses, liverworts, fern-like plants, Ginkgo, and conifers.
A better explanation – The reality is that these fossil feathers and their geological context fit much better with biblical history. The fossilised feathers provide yet another example of swiftly-lithified fossils. These, along the range of other creatures and plants mentioned above would have been fossilised during the conditions provided by the Noahic Flood some 4,500 years ago, itself a successive burial of pre-Flood ecosystems. Finding feathers at an alleged 118 million years old adds nothing to the evolutionary story anyway; there are ‘older’ birds with feathers in the fossil record, such as Confuciusornis, an alleged 153 million years old. Genesis 1 clearly teaches that animals were created to reproduce within their own kinds. This is exactly what the fossil record shows, and we observe today.