Archaeopteryx still gets a lot of press, but nearly all of the experts have recognized it is not a transitional fossil. But that's okay! They have a new dinosaur to bird evolutionary star. Microraptor!


Microraptor. A Feathered Dinosaur?

The British Natural History Museum in London proclaims microraptor is a feathered dinosaur. They describe it as a small theropod dinosaur with "long flight feathers on all four limbs. It may have been capable of guided flight."

Smithsonian Magazine (March 9, 2012) describes microraptor as an:

"exquisitely feathered dinosaur. The small, sickle-clawed predator, which lived about 120 million years ago, was covered in well-developed plumage, including long feathers on its arms and legs."

Quoting Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, Feathered Fossil: Still A Bird (March 17, 2012):

"Since no definitive dinosaurs with feathers have appeared in the fossil record—-only dinosaurs with fuzzy-looking collagen fibers that do not qualify in any way as transitional feathers-—many evolutionists seeking to explain the evolution of feathers would like to find transitional evolutionary forms. Microraptor did not help their case. Instead, these feathers appear grossly and microscopically modern both in shape and microstructure. While the researchers in this study believe their specimen is a feathered dinosaur, they have only reaffirmed the lack of evidence for feather evolution in the fossil record by shining the spotlight on the essentially modern quality of these fossil feathers—-supposedly 120–130 million years old.

There is not much "proof" that microraptor was a dinosaur. A 2008 NOVA program states:

"As he examined it that first day, it looked like it could be a missing link, with a bird's wing and a dinosaur's long tail and legs. And then later in the program a similar statement is made: He's also quite sure that it was a dinosaur. Numerous details of the skeleton say so, from the long bony tail to the sickle claws on its feet.

On the other hand, like Archaeopteryx (again from the NOVA program):

"I noticed the feather shape. This animal has feathers like feathers in flying birds. The wing feathers are asymmetrical, with veins wider on one side of the shaft than the other, which forms airfoil contour, like an airplane wing. Only flying birds have asymmetrical flight feathers.

So we have a animal with modern, true flight feathers. And simply having a long bony tail and sickle claws does not make a dinosaur. So what is it?

Microraptor image credit: Fred Wierum, sky and clouds in background added, CC License.

Archaeopteryx was not a transition

Microraptor: More Evidence

Microraptor fossils have been found with undigested meals in their stomaches. They must have been buried very quickly for that to happen.

One microraptor has a reptile in it's stomach. It was eaten head first, a characteristic of birds. Another microraptor has a two-winged bird in its stomach, again eaten head first. This is some interesting evidence. Dinosaurs are not known to eat birds. A bird could easily fly away from a dinosaur. So a bird in a microrapor's stomach (head first) indicates it could hunt, kill and eat fully formed flying birds. That's something only other birds do.

It's starting to look like it is evolutionary doctrine, the belief that dinosaurs evolved into birds, that is driving the conclusion that microraptor is a transition from dinosaur to bird. It's wishful thinking, not science.

The body design of microraptor shows it was arboreal. It spent a lot of time in trees and dense foliage. Dinosaurs don't do that.

But, what about it's four wings? It has normal wings, plus feathers on its legs giving it another set of wings. That supposedly would make flying very awkward. However, feathers on legs do not necessarily mean wings. As is common with fossils, the microraptor fossils have been squashed flat. The weight of the sediment on top of them tends to do that to all fossils. It's difficult to see the orientation of the leg feathers. Present-day raptors have feathers on their legs that stick out straight back. They do not interfere with flying and may even be providing some stabilization.

And BTW, microraptor was about the size of a present-day crow.

The preponderance of the evidence indicates microraptor was a bird. Fully a bird. A unique bird, but still a bird, not a transition.

Next: Dino to Bird. Is It Even Possible?