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Velociraptor update

22 July 2015

At http://crev.info/2015/07/feathered-velociraptor/ … there is a post with the title, 'Feathered Velociraptor – untangling the Spin' and refers to the Nature journal 'Scientific Reports' on a feathered dinosaur with similarities to the Velociraptor of 'Jurassic Park' movie fame. The fossil was found in dinosaur beds in China (see post a couple of days ago) but in the link above the author claims it was found by a farmer (who wouldn't give his name). Well, there might just be a reason for a farmer not giving his name to the authorities in China – but a fossil is a fossil (and this one is of a feathered animal from the dinosaur era). The region is rich in dinosaur remains so there is no reason to think it is not authentic.

Further, the link claims the media are spinning the fossil as a stepping stone between dinosaurs and birds, the feathers therefore having some other purpose prior to flight – as well as pointing out the similarities with the Velociraptor (and the latter is true as the article I read made this point). The Chinese call the new fossil, Zhenyuanlong suni so is this just another case of a press release being battered up and then tweaked as something significant, as after all the fossil is only five feet in length and hardly the kind of size we normally associate with the dinosaur era. It is also more than likely a flightless bird as its wings are small – but scientists left that  question open as the function of the wings is not obvious (for the moment).

Actually, the issue that is being discussed in the link above concerns a take on the discovery as it appeared in 'The Conversation' – so we can't really expect to have a neutral account (it has a particular angle in most of its output, as do most of the media). The link author is upset by the inference made about evolution and no doubt many media outlets did something similar – bringing a bit of hype to a humdrum story. Another post last week, on the Cenozoic, made the point that mammals and birds were quite common during the Jurassic era and dinosaurs were dominant, only in their large size (but possibly not in their numbers). In other words, the new fossil is clearly not a missing link or stepping stone between dinosaurs and birds as birds were plentiful when the feathered velociraptor was walking the earth (which incidentally was in the early Cretaceous, following the Jurassic). 

The Nature article can be read at www.nature.com/srep/2015/150716/srep11775/full/srep11775.html

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