All this talk of missing links infuriates some other scientists, who consider the link between dinosaurs and birds overblown and misguided. Chief among these dissenters is Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose recent book, The Origin and Evolution of Birds [Yale University Press, 1996], contains extensive refutation of the notion. Linking birds and dinosaurs plays well given the big brutes' immense popularity, but Feduccia believes the fossil evidence really shows dinosaurs and birds to be descendants of a common ancestor--not unlike the relation between dinosaurs and mammals such as ourselves.
Feduccia points out that Unenlagia is definitely not an intermediate species between dinosaur and bird. It lived only 90 million years ago, 55 million years after Archaeopteryx. Novas counters that Unenlagia is probably the descendent of earlier birdlike dinosaurs and so represents a "sister taxon" to Avialae, the group that includes the modern birds. But as Feduccia noted last year in a Science paper written with several co-authors, nearly every dinosaur described as birdlike dates from long after the appearance of the first birds, leading to what the researchers dub a "temporal paradox."
So is there a little T. rex in that Thanksgiving turkey? Or are paleontologists being pulled by the same cultural fads that saddled our world with Barney? The truth is out there, perhaps locked away in fossils yet to be found.