Saturday, 26 May 2007

Jurassic Pigeon at the Creation Museum!

Inaccurate Archaeopteryx model at Creation Museum

For your amusement and entertainment I present: the Jurassic Pigeon! This model is intended to be Archaeopteryx. It was produced by Buddy Davis, for the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, which has its Grand Opening on Monday, May 28. The image is available full size at Ken Ham's blog: "A steady diet" of AiG materials and souls saved.

For all you real biologists and paeontologists out there, please add comments for this article! I'm going to describe some funny features of the model, but I know I am missing more details. If you have any expertise, or if you want to try out your amateur knowledge, please help. I think also that this model was featured in someone else's blog or article, and I have not been able to find it. Please give the link so I can credit you as well.

More information about Archaeopteryx in a nicely accessible form is available from talkorigins at All About Archaeopteryx. This is now a bit dated, but good for specifically refuting creationist confusions.

I have a relevant previous blog article on The Evolution of Wings.

There are many other pages on this famous fossil. See pages at Enchanted Learning, or at Berkeley Museum of Paleontology, or at Wikipedia.
Davis' model looks a lot like a large pigeon, with two exceptions. Davis has added the claws on the wings, and given it a tail – both valid features of Archaeopteryx.

But the head! What a mess! Archaeopteryx did not have a beak. Its head was that of a small dromaeosaur, with a dinosaur snout well supplied with teeth. The neck in Archaeopteryx, as in dinosaurs, attaches to the skull from the rear. Davis has mounted the head with the neck attaching from below, as in modern birds. Archaeopteryx has nasal openings at the end of the snout, like a dinosaur. Davis has a beak. Here is a side by side comparison with the model at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The head is the funniest part of the model, but the legs are also pretty bad. Archaeopteryx had quite long legs, and well equipped with feathers. Indeed, there is a possibility that the flight of Archaeopteryx used its legs in flight as well as forearms; unlike birds that use only the arms. (cf Science News online, Sep 23, 2006.) Davis seems to have put spindly little bird legs onto the model, that vanish up into the thick nest of feathers around the body. The reality is that Archie had prominent and muscular legs, with their own feathers.

And of course the body of Davis' model is a nice plump pigeon. Archie was a predator, lean, mean, and fast.

For comparison, here are some more credible reconstructions of Archaeopteryx. Each one is linked back to the source.

Wikipedia on Archaeopteryx

There has recently been some interest in the feet of Archaeopteryx. It has been traditional that reconstructions have given Archie a fully reversed hind toe. Birds use this structure for perching, and though it is hard to see on Davis' model, he seems to have this bird like foot.

In fact, Archie's feet were much more like those of a theropod dinosaur, with a hyperextended toe complete with killing sickle claw. There's a discussion at Earliest Bird Had Feet Like Dinosaur, Fossil Shows (National Geographic News, Dec 2005) which in turn refers to "A Well-Preserved Archaeopteryx Specimen with Theropod Features", by G. Mayr, B. Pohl, D. S. Peters, in Science Dec 2, 2005, Vol. 310, Iss. 5753; pp. 1483-6.

This paper describes a number of features of Archaeopteryx apparent in the tenth known fossil. The basic conclusion, apparent in the title, is that Archaeopteryx has a lot of features linking it to theropod dinosaurs. The paper includes a detailed consensus tree of relationships, consistent with the widely accepted notion that Archaeopteryx was a sister group to modern birds. The tree identifies a group "Paraves", which divides into two groups. One includes Archaeopteryx and Rahonavis; the other is marked Deinonychosauria, which then splits into Troodontidae and Dromaeosauridae. The latter includes animals like Velociraptor, made famous by the Jurrasic Park movie. And that is the group most closely related to modern birds. *

Creationists can't handle this consistently. There are basically two responses. One set of creationists treat Archaeopteryx as a bird, with some minor differences like claws on the wings and teeth in the beak. The other approach focuses on the fact that Archaeopteryx is not directly ancestral to modern birds, and spins that into a denial of any association at all. Both arguments are symptomatic of a stolid cement headed stupidity.

The former approach manages to plumb slightly deeper depths of idiocy. Predictably, this is the approach chosen by Answers in Genesis, for their absurd museum.

Update. This article is part of a blog carnival on The Creation Museum. Go check it out; 75 differents links with brief extracts, all about this fantastically absurd museum. Thanks to PZ Myers for the hard work of putting it all together, and for the imeptus to write my own article on the subject. I have also fixed a broken link to the talkorigins archive.

* Update, May 29. The phylogeny proposed by Mayr et al., which I cited above, is contentious. A recently published phylogeny is available at A new look at the Phylogeny of Coelurosauria (Dinosauria: Theropoda) by Phil Senter, in Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, doi:10.1017/S1477201907002143, published online May 14 2007. This supports the more usual view that Aves, including Archaeopteryx, is a monophyletic group that does not include Troodontidae or Dromaeosauridae. The combined group is called Paraves, a taxon named in 1997. Locating a few well known dinosaurs within Senter's phylogeny gives the following relationships.

I'd appreciate any further details or corrections or concerns with the material I have presented.


  1. Looks to me like you've covered the main IDiocies of their reconstruction.

  2. I hadn't heard of this argument before. Thanks for posting it. It certainly is crazy what happens when people put blinders on!

  3. I think you missed a major one: Archaeopteryx had teeth, didn't it? This one just has a short beak.

  4. I have collected documented mosaics, cave paintings, bronze seals etc. of dinosaurs made by the ancient man here:

    Dinoglyfs and dinolits from the antiquities they are, really.

    Also fresh fossil samples indicate that the geologic time scales are naiiive. Here's some news along the lines:
    Biochemist, systems biologist

  5. Thank you so much for posting this! As hilarious as it is, it's also frightening. Ironic how creationists and ID'ers are constantly accusing scientists of "covering up" the truth about the validity of evolution (and it just keeps going...check out Expelled). I'll try to add a link to this from my blog soon. Keep up the awesome work! Airtightnoodle's Blog

  6. Ken Hambone, made in the image of the Creator (a scary enough thought to ensure a steady supply of atheists), has created what I suggest should be called 'Turkaeopteryx'. Not just the Fakeyopteryx (thank you, Johhny Kaje []) - the whole nauseum, and its related businesses, is a Turkaeopteryx. He exemplifies the state of America's irrational relationship with book learnin', scholarship, and science. Waaay too many folks find emotional comfort in his conspiracy-theory world, and are blatantly unaware that the rest of society is at least partially reality-, evidence-, and peer-review- based.