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Baraminological analysis of Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae.


Paul Garner (Biblical Creation Ministries)

Todd C. Wood (Bryan College)

Marcus Ross (Liberty University)

The bottom line:

Modern birds and dinosaurs fall into separate created kinds, consistent with the claims of the Bible. However, some extinct feathered animals (such as the famous Archaeopteryx ) may be kinds of dinosaurs.

Replica of the holotype of Archaeopteryx lithographica, from the Upper Jurassic Lithographic Limestone of Solnhofen, Germany.

Technical summary:

In 1868, Huxley suggested that dinosaurs and birds shared anatomical affinities that could indicate an evolutionary relationship. The evolution of birds from dinosaurs is now widely accepted, especially after recent discoveries of theropods with feathers and feather-like integumentary structures (Norell and Xu 2005). Recently, Senter (2010) argued that even creationists should accept the evolutionary relationship of birds and dinosaurs based on multidimensional scaling (MDS) studies of coelurosaurs, but Wood (2011) found evidence of discontinuity between Avialae and Deinonychosauria and between Avialae and Oviraptorosauria.

This study used statistical baraminology to further evaluate the baraminic status of Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae. Baraminic distance correlation (BDC) and three dimensional MDS was applied to six previously published character matrices (Chiappe 2001; Clarke and Norell 2002; O’Connor et al. 2009; Senter 2011; Xu et al. 2011; Zhou et al. 2008). The results revealed discontinuities between most Avialae and the Deinonychosauria (Troodontidae + Dromaeosauridae) and little evidence of continuity between modern birds and dinosaurs, suggesting that Senter’s (2010) confidence that statistical baraminology supports the evolution of birds from dinosaurs is misplaced.

Nevertheless, positive BDC and MDS clustering of some Avialae and deinonychosaurs was found in four of the analyses, suggesting that at least some Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae may be clustered with dinosaurs. This observation raises the interesting philosophical question: what is a bird?

The results of this study were presented at the 2011 Creation Biology Society conference (Wood et al. 2011) and at the Seventh International Conference on Creationism (Garner et al. 2013).


Chiappe, L.M. 2001. Phylogenetic relationships among basal birds, pp.125-142 in: Gauthier, J. and L.F. Gall (eds.), New Perspectives on the Origin and Evolution of Birds. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

Clarke, J.A. and M.A. Norell. 2002. The morphology and phylogenetic position of Apsaravis ukhaana from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia. American Museum Novitates 3387:1-46.

Garner, P.A., T.C. Wood and M. Ross. 2013. Baraminological analysis of Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae, n.p. in: Horstemeyer, M. (ed.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Creationism. Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Huxley, T.H. 1868. On the animals which are most nearly intermediate between birds and reptiles. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 4th series. 2:66-75.

Norell, M.A. and X. Xu. 2005. Feathered dinosaurs. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 33:277-299.

O’Connor, J.K., X. Wang, L.M. Chiappe, C. Gao, Q. Meng, X. Cheng and J. Liu. 2009. Phylogenetic support for a specialized clade of Cretaceous enantiornithine birds with information from a new species. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29:188-204.

Senter, P. 2010. Using creation science to demonstrate evolution: application of a creationist method for visualizing gaps in the fossil record to a phylogenetic study of coelurosaurian dinosaurs. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:1732-1743.

Senter, P. 2011. Using creation science to demonstrate evolution 2: morphological continuity within Dinosauria. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24:2197-2216.

Wood, T.C. 2011. Using creation science to demonstrate evolution? Senter’s strategy revisited. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24:914-918.

Wood, T.C., M. Ross and P. Garner. 2011. Preliminary baraminological analysis of Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series B: Life Sciences 1:25-26. See page 8 of PDF file.

Xu, X., H. You, K. Du and F. Han. 2011. An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae. Nature 475:465-470.

Zhou, Z., J. Clarke and F. Zhang. 2008. Insight into diversity, body size and morphological evolution from the largest Early Cretaceous enantiornithine bird. Journal of Anatomy 212:565-577.