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Apologetics Press :: Reason & Revelation
April 2010 - 9[4]:9-R

Were Dinosaur “Feathers” Colored?
by Kyle Butt, M.A.

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Dinosaurs did not evolve into birds. That is a historical, biological, and biblical fact. The Law of Biogenesis precludes the possibility, and the book of Genesis explains that God created dinosaurs on day six of the Creation week, one day after birds. The “scientific” evidence concocted to “prove” that dinosaurs evolved into birds has been repeatedly and definitively refuted (see Harrub and Thompson, 2001a, and Harrub and Thompson, 2001b), yet the idea that dinosaurs are ancestral to birds refuses to die.

In a recent report in Nature, Zhang, et al. believe they have “confirmed” that dinosaurs evolved into birds. How did they do this? They stated in the abstract of their research: “Here we report that melanosomes (colour-bearing organelles) are not only preserved in the pennaceous feathers of early birds, but also in an identical manner in integumentary filaments of non-avian dinosaurs” (Zhang, et al., 2010). According to these scientists, certain “feathered dinosaurs” had the same types of melanosomes in their “protofeathers” as birds had in their true feathers. This connection led the team to conclude that this research “confirms that these filaments are probably the evolutionary precursors of true feathers” (2010). Not only that, but the researchers further suggested that they could determine the color of the “non-avian” dinosaurs based on the structure of the melanosomes.

As with most dinosaur research that is published in the evolutionary-laden scientific community, the dinosaur-bird connection based on alleged melanosomes took a small amount of scientific fact, and injected an unhealthy dose of pure speculation to render an unsustainable verdict about dinosaur-bird ancestry. First, if the structures truly are melanosome organelles, they pose an initial problem for the millions-of-years timeframe evolutionists attach to dinosaur fossils. The researchers admitted,

One objection to our interpretation could be that melanosomes are unlikely to survive the fossilization process. However, as argued elsewhere there is extensive evidence that melanosomes are highly resistant to chemical and physical degradation and have higher resistance to decay than keratin substrate feathers and hairs in a variety of physical environments (Zhang, et al., 2010).

Yet, the idea that these organelles could fossilize and last for 120 million years has no legitimate scientific evidence to commend it. There is no known preservation process that could account for melanosomes lasting 120 million years.

Second, as forcefully as these researchers suggest that the structures are melanosomes, other equally credentialed scientists suggest they are not. Alan Feduccia, biology professor at the University of North Carolina, said “the melanosomes are not similar to those of other animals and doesn’t disprove the bacteria concept” [the idea that the structures were caused by bacteria and are not melanosomes—KB] (as quoted in Borenstein, 2010).

Third, even if the structures are melanosomes, they prove nothing about dinosaurs having feathers. Melanosomes are not unique to bird feathers. They are organelles that are found in feathers, fur, and skin. The purported “protofeathers” of the “non-avian” dinosaur under discussion do not look anything like feathers. Mike Benton, one of the joint authors of the research, said that the “feathers” of the dinosaur under discussion are “early in their evolutionary development, resemble tiny bristles, less than one fifth of an inch tall” (as quoted in Borenstein, 2010).

In reality, then, we have tiny structures in dinosaur fossils that might be melanosomes, but very well might not. If they are melanosomes, how they were preserved during fossilization for 120 millions years is baffling—unbelievable. [NOTE: We do not accept the millions-of-years timeframe, but only refer to it as a serious problem for the research under discussion.] But even if they are, melanosomes are common to reptiles, birds, and mammals. Thus, their appearance in tiny bristle-like structures does not connect them to birds any more than it does to reptiles. This is especially true in light of the fact that the tiny bristles are dubbed “feathers,” not because of anatomical similarities to feathers, but only because of an assumed relationship between dinosaurs and birds that does not even exist.

Not a single, legitimate scientific discovery to date militates against the straightforward reading of Genesis: that God spoke the Universe into existence in six literal, 24 hour days only a few thousand years ago, creating the various different kinds of animals on days five and six. Any attempt to inject false evolutionary timeframes and biologically impossible ancestral relationships into His creation are doomed to failure.


Borenstein, Seth (2010), “Dino Tail Feathers Were Carrot Colored, Study Says,” [On-line], URL:;_ylt=AgKmr0C _6xAGBBvfN7ieJ4qs0NUE;_ ylu=X3oDMTFlMzN0dnJoBHBvcwMxMTkEc2VjA2F jY29yZGlvbl9zY2llbmNlBHNsawNkaW 5vdGFpbGZlYXQ-.

Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2001a), “Archaeopteryx, Archaeoraptor, and the ‘Dinosaurs-To-Birds’ Theory—Part 1,” Reason & Revelation, April, [On-line], URL:

Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2001b), “Archaeopteryx, Archaeoraptor, and the ‘Dinosaurs-To-Birds’ Theory—Part 2,” Reason & Revelation, May, [On-line], URL:

Zhang, Fucheng, Stuart Kearns, Patrick Orr, et al. (2010), “Fossilized Melanosomes and the Color of Cretaceous Dinosaurs and Birds,” Nature, January 27, [On-line], URL: eta

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