Review by Greg Neyman
First Published 2006
In an article on the Creation,
Dinosaurs and the Flood website, young earth creation science advocate
Charlie Liebert discusses the young earth synopsis of an apparent old earth
problem...how did feathers evolve from scales.1
There are several problems with this article. First, Liebert claims that evolution says "that ancient reptiles called dinosaurs evolved into birds." No, it does not say that ancient reptiles evolved into birds. Dinosaurs are not reptiles in the strictest sense of the word. Reptiles are cold-blooded. Most experts agree that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, although there are a few notable nay-sayers.2
The idea that dinosaurs are reptilian has long been a part of the science of dinosaurs. Thus, it is easy to see why one would think that the scales had to evolve into feathers. After all, dinosaurs were thought to be reptiles, and reptiles had scales, therefore, dinosaurs had to have scales...right???
What does the evidence say? We have good casts of dinosaur skin that have been found. Diplodicus, a large sauropod, had skin with a pattern of tiny, pinhead-sized bumps. Hadrosaurus and Edmontosaurus had a leathery, pebbled skin, somewhat like the skin on a football (American football). Various other ornithopods had skin texture similar to the modern Gila monster.3
Despite this fact, it is still easy to find references to dinosaur skin as scales. Why? Because while the skin of these dinosaurs are not "scaly," their skin may have evolved from scales to skin. The individual sections of the skin, like the individual sections of the Gila monster's skin, can be thought of as scales.
What is the logical conclusion of this? If dinosaurs did not have scales, then the argument that scales could not evolve into feathers is pointless.
However, that's possibly not the final word. Dinosaur skin, although not like scales in the normal sense, could be the remnants of scales as the scales evolved into skin. Now, consider this evidence.
Scutes are the thick scales on the top of a bird's foot. Smaller scales on the back of the foot are called scutellae, and scales on the bottom of the digits are called reticulae. Analysis of these shows that scutes, scuttelae, claw sheathes, beak sheathes, and scales around the eye are of the same chemical composition as feathers, and are controlled by the same genes!4
So, scale to feathers is very much possible, from a genetic standpoint! We may never know the final answer on this, but it is clear that from a genetic standpoint, scales to feathers is very possible.
1 Lizard Scales and Bird Feathers, published on the web at http://www.sixdaycreation.com/facts/creation/biology/sep2001.html
2 http://www.dinodatabase.com/dinothry08.asp (Warm/Cold Blooded)
3 http://www.dinodatabase.com/dinothry06.asp (Dino Skin)
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