Another "Missing Link" Fossil Found to be a Fake

Zhou Xin

PureInsight | January 20, 2003

[] On November 21, 2002, the journal Nature published an article named "Archaeoraptor's Better Half: The Other Component of the Infamous Fossil Forgery is Identified as a Fish-Eating Bird." (VOl 420, 2002) After careful measurements and morphological study, scientists concluded that the Archaeoraptor fossil that was once proclaimed as a key intermediate between carnivorous dinosaurs and birds is now known to be a forgery. It is a chimera formed of bird and dromaeosaur parts.

Ancient bird scientists Zhonghe Zhou and Fucheng Zhang, from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Science, and Julia A. Clarke from the New York based Museum of Natural History investigated the piece of fossil and confirmed that the Archaeoraptor fossil is a fake. It is composed of the tail of a dromaeosaur and a nearly intact Yanornis martini skeleton. It was previously claimed that this fossil had been smuggled from inland China to America. In 1999, National Geographic reported on it in detail and called it a new species between dinosaurs and birds.

Using X-ray technology, the Archaeoraptor fossil was found to consist of two to five specimens from two or more species. Parts other than the dromaeosaur tail are strikingly similar to Yanornis martini in terms of morphology, body ratio, and anatomy, and completely different from those of a dromaeosaur. In the stomach of a recently discovered Yanornis specimen, scientists found fish remains, which indicates that Yanornis fed on fish.

Over the past one hundred years, Darwin's Theory of Evolution has dominated. Many phenomena cannot be explained according to the theory, but scientists still try to defend it. People try to find the missing links in order to validate the theory of evolution, but so far, no conclusive intermediate species fossils had been found. The "Archaeoraptor" fossil is just another case of this.

Figure: Analysis of the Archaeoraptor forgery and Yanrnis martini specimen.
a: the avian half of the Archaeoraptor fossil
b: Yanrnis martini holotype specimen
c: Insert: recently found Yanrnis martini and the fish remains in it.

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