Pterodactylus & Ducks

New Evidence Shows Duck-like Birds Lived at Same Time as Dinosaurs
by Brian Thomas, M.S. *

People don't generally picture ducks as having lived alongside dinosaurs. After all, it is widely assumed that birds evolved from dinosaurs over a period of millions of years. But fossils discovered two decades ago reveal clear evidence that they lived at the same time.

Gareth Dyke, a paleontologist at the University College Dublin, described in the July issue of Scientific American how changes began to occur in the 1990s to the stories of the evolutionary relationships between dinosaurs and birds. Certain gene or protein sequences of modern birds were compared and interpreted within a framework of evolutionary assumptions, giving rise to hypotheses regarding an evolutionary connection between birds and dinosaurs.

But most of these depictions of evolutionary relatedness are in conflict, as each gene, protein, or bone being examined is deemed to be more (or less) similar--with no real rhyme or reason--to various genes, proteins, or fossil bones from other supposed evolutionary relatives. Depending on which study is chosen, the avian in question could have sprung from any number of ancient forms. Dr. Dyke wrote, "Molecular biologists had long questioned the classical, fossil-based view of modern bird evolution."

1. There seem, however, to be just as many questions related to the molecular biology-based view of such evolution.

These pervasive uncertainties are illustrated in studies of giant flightless birds called ratites. One report based on relative similarities between mitochondrial DNA sequences presented evidence that the extinct moa "emerged" first, then "gave rise" to rheas, ostriches, kiwis, and emus.

2. But another study using the same DNA concluded that the evolutionary order should be rheas first and then moas.

3. A later study of other genes from among some of the same birds produced yet another order: ostriches, rheas, emus, and then kiwis.4 This does not show evolution--it just shows confusion.