Re: half-evolved feathers

Stephen Jones (
Sat, 18 Apr 98 11:01:40 +0800


On Sat, 11 Apr 1998 10:17:27 -0500, Glenn Morton wrote:


>>GM>Feduccia and Wild relate:
>>>"Megalancosaurus, in combination with Longisquama, a Lower
>>>Triassic thecodont with featherlike scales and furcula, render
>>>this group (basal archosaurs, including thecodonts) the most
>>>liekly candidate for proximity to avian ancestry."~A. Feduccia
>>>and R. Wild, "Birdlike Characters in the Triassic Archosaur
>>>Megalancosaurus," Naturwissenschaften, 80(1993):564-566
>>>It would appear that the antievolutionary claim is not verified by
>>>observational data.

I forgot to thank you for this reference and welcome you back to the
Reflector. It's been a bit dull without you!

>SJ>This is dated *1993* and is in a non-English speaking journal at
>>that. What exactly are "featherlike scales" and "Birdlike
>>Characters"? Do you seriously think that if *real* half-scales/half-
>>feathers had been found *six years ago* it would not have been
>>trumpeted from the evolutionary rooftops and republished in

GM>It was found in 1972 not 1993.

I said it was "*dated* 1993". My point was that it is 5-6 years old
and has not apparently been mentioned in journals since.

GM>Further Naturwissenschaften DOES publish articles in English
>and the Feduccia and Wild article, which I have a xerox of, is
>written in perfectly understandable english.

I said it was "a non-English speaking *journal*". I did not say that the
article itself was not in English. Your quote from it was in English.

GM>And I might point out that just because an article is in another
>language does not exclude a researcher wanting to discuss
>evidence from getting a copy of that article and getting it
>translated. What is the point of this objection, simply to make an

You just ignore my main point: "Do you seriously think that if
*real* half-scales/half-feathers had been found *six years ago* it
would not have been trumpeted from the evolutionary rooftops and
republished in SCIENCE and NATURE?"

GM>Since I don't really give much credence to what Gish says when
>he hasn't even mentioned Longisquama in any of his writings, I will
>snip all that and simply direct people to a picture of the
>Longisquama fossil in Feduccia The Origin and Evolution of
>Birds,(New Haven, Yale University Press, 1996) p. 134

Probably the reason that "Gish...hasn't even mentioned Longisquama
in any of his writings" is that apparently no one else apart from
Feduccia and Wild have either!

In any event, you just ignore what Gish says about the difference
between scales and feathers:

"Scales are flat horny plates; feathers are very complex in structure,
consisting of a central shaft from which radiate barbs and barbules.
Barbules are equipped with tiny hooks which lock onto the barbs and
bind the feather surface into a flat, strong, flexible vane. Feathers and
scales arise from different layers of the skin. Furthermore, the
development of a feather is extremely complex, and fundamentally
different from that of a scale. Feathers, as do hairs but unlike scales
develop from follicles. A hair, however, is a much simpler structure
than a feather. The developing feather is protected by a horny sheath
and forms around a bloody, conical, inductive dermal core. Not only
is the developing feather sandwiched between the sheath and dermal
core, it is complex in structure. Development of the cells that will
become the mature feather involves complex processed Cells migrate
and split apart in highly specific patterns to form the complex
arrangement of barbs and barbules." (Gish D.T., "Evolution: The
Fossils Still Say NO!," 1995, pp135-136)

GM>But Feduccia shows a picture of the featherlike scales on page
>134 and they do indeed look featherlike with a central ridge and
>perpendicular radiating. Other than a gentle curve to the whole scale
>and a nice gentle rounding at the end they look like this:
> ----------\
> --------------- | |\
>------------ | | | | | \
> | | | | | | | |\
> | | | | | | | |/
>------------ | | | | | /
> --------------- | |/
> ----------/
>Where | are ridges and = is the central stem.

There's nothing unusual about scales having "a central a central
ridge and perpendicular radiating". Ommaney's book "The Fishes" has
pictures of *fish* scales which have central ridges (Placoid scales)
and others which have radiating patterns (Ctenoid scales).

Also, I have a picture of a sturgeon's scale that looks like your
diagram above. Indeed it looks *more* like a feather than
your diagram! See Parker S., "Fish: Collins Eyewitness Guides,"
Collins Australia: North Ryde NSW, 1991 reprint, p14, which states:

"STURGEON'S SCUTES Sturgeons, members of a group 135
million years old, have lost most of their scales during evolution. All
that remain are five rows of large, flat, scutes that run along the body.
A scute from a big sturgeon can be as big as 10 cm (4 in) across."

Your diagram above seems to be that of a reptile scale that has
converged to assist in gliding, as has also occurred independently
in several different lines of animals:

"Animals that fly though many insects can fly, the only vertebrate
animals capable of true powered flight are birds and bats. A number
of other animals glide on unpowered "wings". FLYING GURNARD
Some fish glide above the water on extended fins to escape their
predators. FLYING SQUIRRELS Some squirrels and other tree-
living mammals glide on loose flaps of skin. FLYING FROGS The
webbing between the frog's feet act like miniature parachutes to
enable it to glide between trees. BATS Bats have powered
membranous wings like the prehistoric flying reptiles". (Burnie D.
"Birds, HarperCollins:, 1991, p9)

GM>If this scale is made of the same material as feathers the only
>real alteration which would be required is for the sides of the feather
>be fractally structured like the barbules of feathers. I don't know
>how anyone looking at these could mistake their resemblance to

No doubt they bear a "resemblance to feathers" but so does a balsa
wood glider have a resemblance a jumbo jet! It's what Behe calls
a Calvin and Hobbs argument:

"It seems to be characteristic of the human mind that when it sees a
black box in action, it imagines that the contents of the box are
simple. A happy example is seen in the comic strip "Calvin and
Hobbes" (Figure 1-4). Calvin is always jumping in a box with his
stuffed tiger, Hobbes, and traveling back in time, or
"transmogrifying" himself into animal shapes, or using it as a
"duplicator" and making clones of himself A little boy like Calvin
easily imagines that a box can fly like an airplane (or something),
because Calvin doesn't know how airplanes work. In some ways,
grown-up scientists are just as prone to wishful thinking as little
boys like Calvin..." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box", 1996, p23)

The fact is that Brush has shown that *at the detailed level* feathers
are vastly different to reptile scales:

"the molecular evidence questions the simple, direct relation of the
specialized structures of birds to reptile scale. I will provide
arguments to show that reptile scales and feathers are related only by
the fact that their origin is in epidermal tissue. Every feature from
gene structure and organization, to development, morphogenesis and
tissue organization is different...At the morphological level feathers
are traditionally considered homologous with reptilian scales.
However, in development, morphogenesis, gene structure, protein
shape and sequence, and filament formation and structure, feathers
are different. Clearly, feathers pro vide a unique and outstanding
example of an evolutionary novelty" (Brush A.H. , "On the origin of
feathers," Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Vol., 9 1996, p132, 140)

GM>But I won't play the game you play, Stephen of quoting
>irrelevancys since Gish wasn't referring to the Longisquama and has
>never mentioned it.

That in fact is *precisely the point*! Gish has no need to refer to
Longisquama because apparently no one else apart from Feduccia and
Wild does. The recent article "The Origin of Birds and Their Flight,"
Scientific American, Vol. 278, No. 2, February 1998, by K. Padian &
L.M. Chiappe does not mention Longisquama at all, even though it
discusses the origin of feathers.

And BTW, it's a bad habit of yours to assume that you are the only
one being serious, and those who criticise your posts are just "playing
games". I assure you that in criticising the theistic naturalistic
evolution that you espouse, I am being *deadly* serious!

GM>By the way, as I pointed out the earliest english account of
>Longisquama is in 1972 and anyone with an ounce of curiosity
>could order the russian journal and look at the pictures. I have.
>Gish et al didn't.

How do you *know* that "Gish et al didn't" "order the russian
journal and look at the pictures"?


Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)