Quote: Alan Feduccia

Creationists produced the following quote:

Concerning the alleged dinosaur ancestry of birds, ornithologist Alan Feduccia declared in Science (11/1/96, p. 721), "It is biophysically impossible to evolve flight from such large bipeds with foreshortened limbs and heavy, balancing tails" (because as noted by the writer of the article, that is exactly the wrong anatomy for flight). Feduccia stated, "In my opinion, the theropod origin of birds will be the greatest embarrassment of paleontology in the 20th century."
This makes it sound as if Feduccia thinks that birds couldn't have evolved. In fact, he was talking about something else entirely.

The subject was whether birds evolved from a member of Thecodontia, or from one of the Saurischia (which are descended from Thecodontia). Both groups are Archosauria, a subclass of Reptilia, so the difference seems pretty minor to many observers. It's only a question of how the history of life played out. There's no big issue of theory. If you read

The Origin of Birds and Their Flight, K. Padian and L. Chiappe, Scientific American February 1998 pp. 38-47
you will notice that "the theropod origin of birds" is the mainstream opinion. Apparently Dr. Feduccia is irked at being in the minority.

The only reason the point is debatable is because there isn't much evidence. Small, fragile creatures rarely fossilize, and forest dwellers rarely fossilize. In fact, as someone in the quoted article said, "This has been a good year for finding fossils that tell us about the origin of birds." But in that "good year" we only found four fossils, spread over four continents and 55 million years.

Last modified: 8 February 1998

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