Longisquama: cover girl

Glenn Morton (grmorton@waymark.net)
Thu, 30 Apr 1998 20:33:58 -0500

Concerning claims that Longisquama was ignored over the years and thus a
young-earth creationist making the claim that there is no half-evolved
feather should not be held accountable for knowing about it, I have found
the following interesting items.

In April 1975, Longisquama made the cover of Scientific American. Pretty
good for a 225 million year old girl from Russia. The caption inside says:

"The painting on the cover depicts Longisquama, a tiny (less than six inches
long creature that lived in the Triassic period some 225 million years ago.
It was a thecodont, a memeber of a group that was descended fromearly
reptiles and included the ancestors of the dinosaurs. Unlike typical
retiles, most thecodonts were 'warm-blooded,' like mammals and birds. And
so too, it appears, were the dinosaurs. (see 'Dinosaur Renaissance,' by
Robert T. Bakker, p. 58) Longisquama had plumelike devices on its back and a
covering of insulating scales; such scales wer a stage in the evolution of
feathers. Longisquama is part of the evidence that dinosaurs were not
reptiles but a novel 'warm-blooded' group, and that they are not really
extinct after all--that the birds are a living group of dinosaurs." "The
Cover", Scientific American April 1975, p. 4

Bakker in his article has the following caption (Robert T. Bakker, "Dinosaur
Renaissance," Scientific American, April, 1975, p. 68)

"Longisquama, a small animal whose fossil was discovered in middle Triassic
lake beds in Turkestan by the Russian paleontologist A. Sharov, was a
thecodont. ITs body was covered by long overlapping scales that were
keeled, suggesting that they constituted a structural stage in the evolution
of feathers."

And speaking of Longisquama,

"More important is the covering of long, overlapping, keeled scales that
trapped an insulating layer of air next to its body. These scales lacked
the complex anatomy of real feathers, but they are a perfect ancestral stage
for the insulation of birds."(ibid., p. 70

Surely a researcher should consult Scientific American and have been alerted
to this possibility and then at least addressed it in their many, many books
since 1975 claiming that there was no half-evolved feather. At what point do
we say that they didn't do their job well?

Longisquama also appeared in L. B. Halstead, "The evolution and ecology of
the dinosaurs, (London:Peter Lowe, 1975).

As mentioned the other day, Longisquama was discussed in "Une Nouvelle
interpretation de Longisquama insignis, reptile enigmatique du Trias
superieur d'Asie Centrale," Comptes Rendes Acad. Sci. Paris, 305(1987) Serie
II p. 65-70.

I got this article today and it is in English.

Some uncompleted business: Stephen Jones had asked for the reference on
Longisquama from the recent Nature. It is Alan Feduccia and Larry D.
Martin, Mark Norell et al, "Theropod-Bird Link Reconsidered," Nature
391(Feb. 19, 1998), p. 754-755


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