Did Dinosaurs evolve into Birds? – the debate continues
A number of eminent scientists and palaeontologists continue to shed doubt over the widely accepted theory that small theropod dinosaurs developed feathers and that this shows that birds are dinosaur’s direct decendents. I suspect the debate will continue. It may never be resolved, ardent supporters of the feathered dinosaur theory use evidence from the fantastic “feathered” dinosaur fossils of China to champion their cause whilst the sceptics cite the same fossils as proof that there is no link between birds and dinosaurs.
A new study of fossils of Sinosauropteryx, a small theropod discovered in the Liaoning region of China, the first of the so-called feathered dinos (discovered in 1996), claims that the “black fuzz” in the skeleton around the head and neck region are not fossilised primitive feathers (called proto-feathers) but collagen. These scientists claim that as the fibres in the skeleton seem rather straight and rigid they look very similar to the collagen found in sharks and many reptiles today. Iguanas for example, have a collagen frill that runs down their necks and back, could the fossil of Sinosauropteryx show the remains of this frill and not the feathers as first thought.
Feathers or Simply Frills?
Could these be simple feathers or if these structures are too rigid and inflexible as some scientists claim are they simply frills?
One argument for small dinosaurs having feathers (Sinosauropteryx was only about 4 feet long), is for insulation to keep their little bodies warm. However, if this was the case then perhaps this fossil should show lots of feathery down all over the body not just running the length of the back, head and tail. Hang on a minute, what is the point of having insulation if your are cold-blooded – does this mean that some dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded (endothermic) like us, I feel another “heated” discussion (no pun intended) coming on.
A Photograph of a Sinosauropteryx Fossil Specimen
Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur
PNSO have produced a range of feathered dinosaur models including a replica of Sinosauropteryx. To view the PNSO range: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs.
The discussion will continue.