Note: I can’t find a picture of Archaeoraptor to legally post here, but to see it on the National Geographic site, click here.
In 1999, National Geographic published an article about Archaeoraptor, a new fossil find and purportedly the missing link between dinosaurs and birds. This fossil came from China and was illegally exported to the U.S. where it was bought by the owner of the Dinosaur Museum. This man then contacted National Geographic to announce the find to the world.
The fossil was heralded as the missing link because it appeared to have a dinosaur-like tail with a bird-like body. Unfortunately, the reason it appeared that way is because it was a dinosaur tail (a dromaeosaur) stuck onto a slab with a bird body. In fact, a CT scan revealed this fossil to be a composite of at least three (and maybe up to five) separate fossils. These were cemented together by a farmer who thought the fossils would bring more money as one piece.
To be fair, few actual paleontologists were fooled by this hoax. The journals Nature and Science both refused to publish the paper because of the sketchy nature of the find. The paper describing this fossil was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, only in National Geographic.
Unfortunately, many more people read National Geographic than peer-reviewed journals. When National Geographic was fooled, so was much of the public.
In October, 2000, the journal issued a retraction based on evidence from a Chinese scientist’s investigation of Archaeorapter. This was a source of embarrassment for National Geographic for many years—all because they wanted to believe the missing link had been found.
What do you think? Why are so many people invested in finding a missing link between dinosaurs and birds? Even if a fossil was found which appeared to be an intermediary between dinos and birds, who could say God didn’t create that as a separate animal?
References: https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/feathers/archaeoraptor-hoax-update-national-geographic-recants/, http://www.science20.com/between_death_and_data/5_greatest_palaeontology_hoaxes_all_time_3_archaeoraptor-79473