Have you been keeping up with the latest news for the upcoming film, Jurassic World Dominion? If so, then you’ll know that not all of the dinosaurs featured in it have tough, leathery, scaly hide. Some are decked out with feathers, like birds!
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The one with fiery red wings and tail fan, taking on Chris Pratt in the trailer, is Pyroraptor olympius, a cousin of the more-famous Velociraptor. However, not all of the film’s dinosaur cast have the same types of feathers. Others, like the Therizinosaurus seen tracking down Bryce Dallas Howard, are covered in a hairy-like pelt.
Seeing these creatures as more bird-like will no doubt surprise some moviegoers. From a young-earth creationist perspective, such portrayals might seem upsetting. After all, if some dinosaurs had feathers then would that not mean some of them evolved into birds?
Just how do creationists make sense of feathered dinosaurs? Do they really exist? If so, how do they fit into a young-earth creationist’s understanding of the diversity of life?
Did Dinosaurs Really Have Feathers?
Yes they did! Starting in the 1990’s, paleontologists have discovered that feathered dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes.1 Then, in 2016, scientists reported the fascinating discovery of a baby dinosaur tail encased in amber.2 Feathers cover its little tail!
One of my favorite feathered dinosaur discoveries is Zhenyuanlong (a close relative of Pyroraptor). About the size of a turkey, its exquisitely-preserved fossil remains show that its feathers were not just limited to its body.3 It also had long feathers on its wings, and a tail fan. Zhenyuanlong was a bit like a small, meat-eating ostrich, because it didn’t use its wings to get off the ground. Others, like the crow-sized Microraptor, had four wings, one on each limb. Though it’s traditionally thought to only be a glider, some paleontologists have recently proposed that this creature was capable of powered flight, similar to modern birds.4
As we saw in the Jurassic World Dominion trailer, not all dinosaurs had the same types of feathers. Beipiaosaurus, a smaller cousin of Therizinosaurus, was instead covered in something like the downy feathers seen covering baby chickens.5 These are called dino fuzz. Useless for flying, several dinosaurs had them, probably in order to stay warm. The largest dinosaur discovered with dino fuzz so far is a T. rex-like animal called Yutyrannus.6 It was as long as a school bus!
Feathered Dinosaurs and Young-Earth Creationism
So how do feathered dinosaurs fit into a young-earth creation model? Firstly, we know from Scripture that different kinds of birds (Genesis 1:21-22) and different kinds of land animals (Genesis 1:24-25, which would include dinosaurs) were already present within the first week of the Earth’s existence. God created flying creatures on the fifth day of creation. But God created land-dwelling dinosaurs on the sixth day. This means that not only is there not enough time for birds to evolve from non-bird dinosaurs, but that God brought birds into existence first, not the other way around. This precludes any notion of dinosaur-to-bird evolution taking place.
This matches the scientific evidence we see that distinguishes feathered dinosaurs from birds, and even other dinosaurs. Evolutionary paleontologists place all dinosaurs and birds on a single, evolutionary tree that links them to a common ancestor. However, young-earth paleontologists recognize many distinct groups of dinosaurs that go back to ancestors God created during Creation Week. One recent study found that there are at least eight distinct groups, or created kinds, of feathered dinosaurs.7 Each member of a single created kind of feathered dinosaur is related, but they are unrelated to birds and other dinosaurs outside of their kind.
Rather than emblems of evolution, feathered dinosaurs represent the creativity, ingenious design, and downright beauty with which God filled His creation.