There are many problems with the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs--chief among them is of course the fact that there is no such thing as macro evolution. When this idea was first put forth, it was nutty enough that it had few adherents among evolutionists--but as often happens those who don't accept the idea are now the ones considered to be on the fringe. This report that "ancient relatives" of the duck lived among the dinosaurs shouldn't surprise anyone who knows that they were created in the same week, but it's not going to go down well with many evolutionists who have come to believe that birds came after the dinosaurs.
Some scientists believe many modern bird lineages existed as long as 100 million years ago.
Ducks may have been paddling about in primeval swamps when T. rex was king of the dinosaurs, scientists have announced in the journal Nature.
Fossil remains of a bird that lived 70 million years ago appear to belong to a relative of modern ducks and geese. The partial skeleton, discovered on Vega island, western Antarctica, is likely to stir up controversy.
|Storrs L. Olson
Curator of Birds
National Museum of Natural History
"The idea of feathered dinosaurs and the theropod origin of birds is being actively promulgated by a cadre of zealous scientists acting in concert with certain editors at Nature and National Geographic who themselves have become outspoken and highly biased proselytizers of the faith.
Truth and careful scientific weighing of evidence have been among the first casualties in their program, which is now fast becoming one of the grander scientific hoaxes of our age---the paleontological equivalent of cold fusion."--On Archaeoraptor Hoax
Many scientists believe modern bird lineages did not evolve until the end of the dinosaurs' reign.
Although the first bird, Archaeopteryx, lived in the Jurassic period 150 million years ago, researchers disagree over when modern birds made their first appearance.
One camp believes many modern bird lineages existed as long as 100 million years ago. According to this vision, familiar looking birds would have been running and flying about alongside dinosaurs.
In contrast the other camp thinks that, although birds did exist during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, they were largely wiped out by whatever killed the dinosaurs.
According to this theory, only a few lineages made it through the mass extinction and, subsequently, these lonely survivors blossomed into all the modern bird families we know today.
The fossil records so far support the latter version, known as the "big bang" theory of bird evolution. But if the new find, known as Vegavis iaai, really is a relative of the duck, it would lend considerable weight to the idea that modern birds lived with dinosaurs and survived whatever catastrophe killed them.
A team of scientists led by Dr Julia Clarke, from North Carolina State University, US, said Vegavis belonged to the waterfowl family and was "most closely related to Anatidae, which includes true ducks".
"Until now the fossil record has been ambiguous," said Dr Clarke. "But now we have a fossil which indicates that at least part of the diversification of living birds had begun before the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs."
If this species was a duck, and it did live in the Cretaceous period, then other modern birds probably did too.
"Chickens and their relatives belonged to the lineage which was closest to the duck lineage," Dr Clarke told BBC News website.
"So if we had the duck lineage in the Cretaceous, the chicken lineage must have been present. Even though we don't have a chicken fossil yet, we know its lineage must have been there."
|Some scientists just can't see a duck.|
The researchers used a statistical analysis of certain bone features to identify the "duck" However Vegavis has not managed to convince supporters of the big bang theory of bird evolution.
"This is basically an unidentifiable bundle of bones," Alan Feduccia, a bird expert from the University of North Carolina, US,(who does not believe birds evolved into dinosaurs) said.
"This is a well known specimen which has been kicking around since 1992, and it was originally described as belonging to an extinct group. And now all of a sudden it's a modern duck."
Julia Clarke and her team used a statistical analysis of certain bone features to identify Vegavis as a member of the duck family, but Professor Feduccia is unmoved by their interpretation.
"The analysis is based on very superficial features of bones, so I find it unreliable."
Professor Feduccia is sure that bird species could not have survived a major global extinction en masse.
"Birds are very sensitive to any environmental disturbance - in fact they are a good indicator of environmental problems.
"But these people don't believe whatever caused the mass extinction had any affect on the birds, and that seems ludicrous."