Saturday, September 10, 2016

Modern Bird Species in the Cretaceous?  No!


Don Batten, a writer associated with Creation Ministries International, has been the most vocal advocate of the claim that modern species of birds have been found in rock layers with dinosaurs.  He usually quotes Dr. Carl Werner.  Two examples of this claim are:

"Dr Carl Werner’s book and DVD, Living Fossils, reveals that fossil researchers have found many modern bird remains with dinosaurs..."

"Most people are surprised to learn that many modern bird species have been discovered buried with dinosaur remains: “parrots, owls, penguins, ducks, loons, albatross, cormorants, sandpipers, avocets, etc.” (Batten, Don, “Living Fossils: a Powerful Argument for Creation,” Creation 33 (2), 2011.) “This symphysis appears to represent the oldest known parrot and is, to my knowledge, the first known fossil of a ‘terrestrial’ modern bird group from the Cretaceous. The existence of this fossil supports the hypothesis, based on molecular divergence data that most or all of the major modern bird groups were present in the Cretaceous.” (Stidham, Thomas A., Nature 396, 29-30, November 5, 1998.)" [quoted from the webside "Genesis Park"]

What is important to notice here is that Dr. Werner never says that modern species of birds are found buried with the dinosaurs.  He says "modern birds" or "modern groups of birds".  Werner is hoping that his audience won't know that there is a difference between a modern group of birds, and a modern species of bird.  A modern species of bird is one which is living today, such as the Red-crowned Amazon Parrot, (Amazona viridigenalis), native to Mexico.  The modern group is the Order Psittaciformes, which has almost 400 species in 92 genera living today, but includes all the fossil relatives of the Order, going back perhaps to the Late Cretaceous 70 million years ago, if Stidham's fossil is confirmed to be a parrot.  Modern species are limited to the present day, or perhaps a few million years into the past.  No modern species is known from the Oligocene, Eocene or Paleocene, and certainly not from the Cretaceous.  But most of the modern orders of birds  are well known back to the beginning of the Paleocene, some 65 million years ago, meaning that they evolved in the Late Cretaceous, or earlier.

Analysis of Werner's claims:

We can take Werner's claims and check the facts.  We have to make some assumptions about what he meant, since the "modern birds" he mentions are not all of equivalent rank in the scientific classification, but I've tried to do so to mirror what I think was Werner's intention.  I've given examples of modern species which would fit within Werner's group name, and indicated the family or order to which they belong.  Next is the age of the earliest known fossil from that family or order, and the fossil species upon which it is based.

Werner's name
Living example common name
Living species name
Order or Family
Age of earliest known fossil
Fossil species
Amazon Parrot
Amazona viridigenalis
Late Cretaceous
Unnamed but described
Great Horned Owl
Bubo virginianus
Berruornis, Ogygoptynx
Supposed Cretaceous owls are non-avialian dinosaurs
Magellan's Penguin
Spheniscus magellanicus
Early Paleocene
Waimanu manneringi
Anas platyrhynchos
Late Eocene
Romanvillia sp.
Common Loon
Gavia immer
Late Eocene / Early Oligocene
Colymboides minutus
Wandering Albatross
Diomedia exulans
Middle Eocene
Murunkus subitus
Double Crested Cormorant
Phalacrocorax auritus
Late Cretaceous
Unnamed species in Asia and North America
Sandpipers, curlews and snipe
Early Eocene
Paractitis bardi
American Avocet
Recurvirostra americana
Late Eocene / Early Oligocene
Recurvirostra sanctaeneboulae

So where does Werner and the Creationists who parrot him go wrong?  They make three mistakes:

1.  The  Cretaceous and early Tertiary fossil birds are not members of any species living today.  They are not members of any living genus.  Recurvirostra is the sole exception, and one suspects that the very fragmentary fossil, a partial coracoid, is insufficient to support such a generic assignment.  They may be members of families which have modern survivors.

2.  They cherry-pick paleontologists who make statements about a fossil species like "This fossil would have looked very similar to a modern duck".  That does not mean it is from a living species of duck, or that it is even in the same family (Anatidae) or order (Anseriformes) as living ducks.

3.  They use common names with vague definitions rather than give the name of the fossil so that anyone can check their claims.



Cretaceous dinosaurs did not co-exist with any modern bird species.

1 comment:

  1. Cretaceous dinosaurs though did co-exist with the ancestors of modern bird species.