Dakotaraptor: a giant, feathered, winged raptor?

by / November 18, 2015

Right on the massive deadly heels of Australia’s new “Lighting Claw” raptor, comes a North American dinosaur discovery that is claimed to represent the first evidence of feathers on ‘giant raptors’. The Rapid City Journal reports, “A partial skeleton of a heretofore unknown species of dinosaur, dubbed a “giant raptor”, was found by a team of scientists in part of the Hell Creek Formation in southeast Harding County south of the Slim Buttes formation. The specimen, named Dakotaraptor steini, is one of the largest raptors found in the world at more than 16 feet long”. While other oversized raptors have been unearthed, none had been found with any evidence of possessing feathers. However, this new dino supposedly changes all that, “Perhaps the most significant discovery from the fossil was the evidence of “quill knobs” on the specimen’s forearms. This showed that long feathers were attached to the arm of this dinosaur, making for small wings. The discovery means the Dakotaraptor is the largest winged dinosaur ever discovered”. Peter Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research (which excavated the world-famous T. rex named Sue), commented: “We aren’t sure what those wings were used for but it wouldn’t have been flying; maybe it helped them move along the ground”. He said this discovery is so important because this group of dinosaurs is “very, very closely related to birds”. This specimen could illustrate an important link between dinosaurs and the large birds still living today according to Larson. He noted that the types of “quill scars” found on Dakotaraptor also are found on other large birds living today.” Links: Rapid City JournalPaleontological Contributions (5.6MB PDF)

Despite glowing headlines that scientists have found a “feathered raptor with wings,” neither feathers nor wings were found on this fossil. Instead, the original paper reports “a row of 10 oblong protuberances,” which they describe as, “indistinguishable from the quill knobs, or ulnar papilli, in extant birds and other examples reported in theropod dinosaurs.” The paper includes a graphic comparing the ‘quill knobs’ of Dakotaraptor to those of the Masked Booby and dinosaurs Velociraptor and  Concavenator, alongside a diagram showing how the new dino’s supposed ‘wing-feathers’ would have been attached to the bone in life. In spite of the assertion from the authors that, “the presence of quill knobs does unequivocally indicate the presence of remiges [flight feathers]”, there is another possible interpretation that has nothing to do with feathers.

In commenting on the supposed ‘quill-knobs’ on the dinosaur Concavenator, vertebrate paleontologist Dr. Darren Naish notes that, “animals sometimes have weird, irregularly spaced tubercles (bumps) arranged in lines on various of their bones, typically located on intermuscular lines (they presumably represent partially ossified attachment sites for tendinous sheets or similar structures): I’ve seen them on mammal bones and on a theropod tibia (specimen MIWG.5137, illustrated in Text-Fig. 9.29 of Naish et al. (2001)). In view of the differences apparent between the structures of Concavenator and true quill knobs, and the fact that a plausible alternative explanation exists, I hope you understand my scepticism”. (See Science Blogs 9 September 2010.) Naish notes earlier in his article that the “quill-knobs” were, in fact, “The big deal about Concavenator – the one thing that probably near-guaranteed its publication in Nature”. Might it be that the desire for publication, media attention, and the bolstering of the current “dinosaur-to-bird” dogma are actually the driving factors behind the claims surrounding the new “Dakotaraptor”? It certainly appears to be a possibility. For more on supposed quill knobs in dinosaurs, see our report “More Dinosaur Feather Evidence”, here.

From God’s written record of creation in Genesis, we find that flying birds were created a day before all land animals, so there can be no connection between land-dwelling dinosaurs and birds. The significant differences between birds and dinosaurs (like breathing apparatuses, hand-development, brains, centres of gravity, skin, etc) are strong evidence supporting this biblical distinction. Although nothing in Scripture directly eliminates the possibility of reptiles with feathers, the burden of proof rests with the evolutionists to produce a clearly ‘feathered dinosaur’!

Illustration: Dakotaraptor steini after DePalma et al 2015 by Emily Willoughby, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Creative commons images are attributed to their authors in accordance with the Creative Commons Share Alike license. (CC-SA) Attribution does not indicate endorsement of us or our work.

This report was first published on Evidence News: www.creationresearch.net.

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Caleb LePore
Caleb LePore serves as Research Associate for Genesis Apologetics in Northern California. A former public school student, he understands the conflict between what students learn in Sunday school and science class about the origin and history of the universe. Thankfully, God opened his eyes to the truth of biblical creation and has given him the opportunity to reach hundreds of people with the creation/Creator message through his speaking and writing. He is a homeschool graduate, and an Eagle Scout. http://genesisapologetics.com

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