Out of the drawers at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology were stored specimens that were discovered in upper Cretaceous, which is when true birds were already flying around the earth when they lived. Impressions of mostly straight lines was interpreted to be that of “feathers” on a dinosaur!
Artwork began to emerge in the media as it just loves to hype up these kinds of things, the specimen was touted as the very first North American “feathered” dinosaur! Where was the critique or alternative analysis in these publications that were claiming that those mostly straight line impressions were not only feathers but claiming the dinosaur was using those alleged feathers as a courtship display like the BBC, science daily, phys.org, and even live science?
In Zelenitsky’s paper, where all this hype is coming from, words like vane, and pennaceous are noticeably missing throughout the paper! One does find the word barbule being mentioned. Further, these supposed “feathers” are not connected to the skeleton, rather the impression in the rock is separated by a centimeter or more at various angles from parallel to almost perpendicular.
They give it a name, Ornithomimus which means “ostrich-mimic” dinosaur which they claim has a filament or shaft, much simpler than the complex vanes of true feathers with their barbs, barbules and interlocking hooks. This species is different from other claims of ‘feathered’ dinosaurs, because those others were lizard-hipped dinosaurs and this one is, bird-hipped.
This adds to the complexity of the evolution of birds from dinosaurs because it would claim that dinosaurs had feathers long before flight. They admit, their new discovery (interpretation) is too heavy to fly. So they suggested it was some sort of courtship dance.
It is interesting to note, that the adult had the scratch like impressions (labeled as feathers) but one juvenile did not have it. The third had markings on the bone itself. The paper stretches hard data for imagination by claiming that criss-cross markings on the bone are inferred traces left by shafted feathers without bearing any resemblance to actual feathers! Yet we see their artwork showing the adult with fully-fledged wing feathers, barbs, barbules and all, and even multiple colors! Talk about using the imagination with so little data. Whatever the markings mean, they complicate the story of dinosaur-to-bird evolution.
Part of the reason of all this hype over little markings on a bone and mostly straight line impressions in the rock, is because they use dinosaurs to try and spark interest in evolution ( they know that kids love dinosaurs) and do not like the fact that dinosaurs fit well in the biblical creationism. So was there a first North American “feathered” dinosaur that was discovered in storage at a museum? The answer of course is no, there is not enough evidence to suggest that the animal had a courtship dance with all its colors of its feathers!