Dinosaurs with Feathers, or Primitive Birds?

Exhibit of Chinese Fossils Revives Debate on Bird Evolution

Raptor with feathers

A model of what paleontologists believe a raptor with feathers would have looked like 120 million years ago. Eric Niiler for NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Niiler for NPR News

A new exhibit of dinosaurs sporting feathers is stirring controversy in the scientific community. The exhibit's organizer says the fossils prove that birds, as a species, are much older than researchers previously believe.

Eric Niiler of member station KPBS toured the exhibit at San Diego's Natural History Museum, which features 120-million-year-old fossils discovered in northeastern China. The exhibit includes 10-foot-tall models of what some paleontologists believe a feathered raptor might have looked like.

Not everyone in the scientific community believes in the dinosaur-bird connection. But the curator of the exhibit, dinosaur sculptor and self-styled paleontologist Stephen Czerkas is adding a new wrinkle to the debate: He claims what many scientists believe are feathered dinosaurs are really primitive birds.

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