The latest news out of Alberta, Canada, concerns some remnants of feathers that were trapped in amber.

Ryan McKellar, a paleontology graduate student at the University of Alberta discovered eleven fragments of feathers preserved in amber believed to be 80 million years old.  The amber, from the area near Grassy Lake in Alberta, was part of the collection housed at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in southern part of the Canadian province.

According to the press release from the University of Alberta:

No dinosaur or avian fossils were found in direct association with the amber feather specimens, but McKellar says comparison between the amber and fossilized feathers found in rock strongly suggest that some of the Grassy Lake specimens are from dinosaurs.  The non-avian dinosaur evidence points to small theropods as the source of the feathers.

Some of the feather fragments resemble those of aquatic diving birds like the grebe.  These feathers absorb enough water to allow the grebes to easily dive underwater.

Other feather fragments appear to be hair-like in structure, missing the typical parts found in most feathers.  These filamentous feathers are being interpreted as belonging to some kind of theropod dinosaur, leading McKellar to declare:

We’re finding two ends of the evolutionary development that had been proposed for feathers trapped in the same amber deposit. 

The main professor of paleontology at the University of Alberta is Dr. Philip Currie, one of Canada’s most popular fossil gurus.  Currie was also one of the founders of the Royal Tyrrell Museumin Drumheller, Alberta.  He has also been on the loudest proponents of feathered dinosaurs.

Considering that McKellar is a paleontology graduate student at the university where Currie teaches, it’s no surprise that he had been thoroughly brainwashed to also believe in millions of years and feathered dinosaurs.

After examining the various photos of the feathers in amber specimens, I see no problem with believing that the fragments are all avian.

Feather structure varies from one type of feather to another.  Most birds have more than one type of feather with some of them having feathers that range from the large typical feathers to hair-like spikes.

Most feathers are composed of a central shaft that is divided into two sections.  The calamus is that part of the shaft closest to the body of the bird.  It is characterized by not having any vanes radiating off of it.  The part of the central shaft that has vanes branching off of it is known as the rachis.  The vanes are branches that radiate off from the rachis.  In most feathers, the vanes resemble palm fronds.  Each vane is composed of a series of parallel branches known as barbs.  The barbs have another series of small parallel branches called barbules.  At the ends of the barbules are hooklets that attach the row of barbules from one vane to the barbules from the next vane.

As stated earlier, there are a number of different types of feathers.  Those types of feathers are, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Contour – When you look at a bird the contour feathers are the outermost feathers, or the ones you see. They provide the color and the shape of the bird. The wing feathers are strong and stiff, supporting the bird during flight. The contour feathers tend to lie on top of each other, much like shingles on a roof. The feathers therefore tend to shed rain, keeping the body dry and well insulated.

Each contour feather can be controlled by a set of specialized muscles which control the position of the feathers, allowing the bird to keep the feathers in a smooth and neat condition.

Remiges – The largest contour feathers are often the large flight feathers, which are collectively called the remiges. Since they are responsible for supporting the bird during flight, remiges are attached by ligaments or directly to the bone. The outer remiges are referred to as the primaries and are the largest and strongest of the flight feathers. They are attached to the skeletal equivalent of the “hand” of the bird.

The inner remiges are called the secondaries and are attached to the “forearm” of the bird. They are located between the body of the bird and the primaries. The secondaries provide lift in both soaring and flapping flight.

Rectrices – The tail feathers are used to provide stability and control. They are referred to collectively as rectrices. The rectrices are connected to each other by ligaments, with only the innermost feathers attaching directly to the tailbone.

Coverts – Bordering and overlaying the edges of the remiges and the rectrices on both the lower side and upper side of the body are rows of feathers called coverts. The coverts help streamline the shape of the wings and tail while providing the bird with insulation.

Afterfeathers – Attached to the lower shaft of some contour feathers are the typically much smaller afterfeathers. The afterfeathers resemble the main feather and provide an extra layer of warmth.

In North American birds, the afterfeathers of grouse are especially well developed for their life in seasonally cold and arctic regions.

The flightless Emu of Australia has specially adapted afterfeathers that are as large as the main feather and provide protection as the bird moves through the thick brush of its natural habitat. Relatively recent additions to the Emu’s normal range are four-foot high sheep fences topped with barbed wire. Seemingly unperturbed, the flightless Emu crosses these fences by running straight into them, resulting in a high-speed somersault over the fence. The tuft of feathers left behind is a sure indication of an Emu crossing and a testament to the amount of protection the feathers offer.

Bristles – Highly specialized feathers, bristles are small contour feathers which lack barbs on the outermost part and have an especially stiff rachis.

Rictal bristles project from the beak of many insect-eating birds, including flycatchers, nightjars and even the American Robin. They are believed to provide protection for the bird’s eyes as it consumes its wriggly prey. The bristles may also provide tactile feedback, like the whiskers on a dog or cat.

Down – Up to the challenge of keeping birds warm are the down feathers. In down feathers, the rachis is either missing completely or substantially reduced in length. The barbules lack hooks, which combined with the lack of rachis, results in a very soft and fluffy feather. Without the hooks, the barbs and barbules create a puffy tangle of insulating air pockets.

Natal downs are present on some birds at the time they hatch. They are responsible for giving baby chicks and ducklings their fluffy appearance. Natal downs are typically found on well developed hatchlings that can almost immediately walk or swim independently of their parents.

The young of most Passerine species, such as Blue Jays, are totally helpless and virtually naked at birth. It is thought that the baby birds save energy by not producing down and are able to absorb the body heat of the parent bird more easily.

Semiplumes – Semiplumes are found between other feathers, providing an additional layer of warmth and helping to maintain the smooth, streamlined shape of the bird. Semiplumes are a cross between down feathers and contour feathers. They do have a supportive rachis, as on contour feathers, but lack the hooks that hold the barbs together. The resulting feather does not form a vane and has a downy feather look.

Filoplumes – The simplest feather is the filoplume. It consists primarily of the rachis with no barbs or only a few isolated barbs at the tip. These relatively stiff and hair-like feathers lack specific feather muscles but have sensory receptors next to the base of the feathers. Filoplumes lie under the contour feathers and are thought to provide the bird with feedback on contour feather activity.

Powder Downs Found only in certain taxonomic groups such as pigeons and herons, powder down feathers are never molted. Instead, they grow continuously but disintegrate at the tips into something like a fine talcum powder. The powder permeates the other feathers, presumably to provide waterproofing, although the exact function is not well understood.

From reading all of the different types of feathers and feather structures listed above, it should be obvious that all of the different types of feather fragments found in the amber are avian and resemble feather types found on birds today.  It’s only their avid belief in the religion of evolution that makes them try to pawn off bird feathers as belonging to dinosaurs.

References

Feather Structure, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, www.birds.cornell.edu.

In Fine Feather: On Dinosaurs We All Agree, EdmontonJournal.com,Sept. 17, 2011.

Schmid, Randolph E.  Researchers From the University of Alberta Report Feathers in Amber Reveal Dinosaur Diversity, ArtDaily.org, Sept. 18, 2011.

Study Sheds Light On ‘Story of Feather Evolution,’ RedOrbit.com,Sept 15, 2011.

Wilford, John Noble.  Feathers Trapped in Amber Reveal a More Colorful Dinosaur Age,  NYTimes.com,Sept. 15, 2011.


Adventures of Arkie the Archaeopteryx

Join Arkie the Archaeopteryx as he flies through an ancient jungle and meets many unique creatures that are also not missing links. This delightful adventure helps children look at the natural world through a biblical lens, giving glory to God.

(PreschoolPrimary/Elementary)

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