1. Joined
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    03 Jul '14 06:494 edits
    http://phys.org/news/2014-07-fossil-archaeopteryx-sported-feathered-trousers.html

    "...
    New fossil shows Archaeopteryx sported 'feathered trousers'

    The origin of feathers and the origin of flight have been a contentious chicken-and-egg issue in the scientific world for decades. Did feathers develop as a flight mechanism - or were they first used for other purposes?

    Now, the discovery of an Archaeopteryx skeleton with feathered "trousers" bolsters the idea that these feathers weren't for flying and initially may have been used as impressive displays. The findings in the journal Nature shed light on the complex evolution of feathered flight.

    Archaeopteryx, which lived in the late Jurassic period roughly 150 million years ago, is considered a transitional species, sharing many characteristics of both dinosaurs and modern birds. The handful of skeletons and their fossilized feather impressions - sometimes poorly preserved - have led to various ideas about how this dinosaur lived. Some say its feathers were used for flight, others argue that their plumage was primarily for showing off to potential mates. Some saw feathers on the animals' hind limbs and proposed that Archaeopteryx was a four-winged glider, using both pairs of limbs to soar through the air.

    Now, a team of German scientists have examined a remarkably well preserved specimen and found different kinds of feathers covering different parts of its body. It boasts long, 4- to 4.5-centimeter feathers on its hind limb, which are more than half the length of the tibiotarsus leg bone. But in a blow to the four-winged theory, the feathers were symmetrical on either side of their stems, making them less useful for flight. Aerodynamic feathers used for flight are asymmetrical, with one side narrower and the other wider (looking a little like wings themselves).

    "These results contradict the hypothesis that the flapping flight of modern birds was preceded by a four-winged gliding stage," the study authors wrote.

    On the other hand, the tail feathers were much longer, from 9.9 to 11.4 centimeters long and more than half the length of the bony tail. They were also asymmetrical, which could mean the tail feathers had "a secondary aerodynamic function," used to increase the animal's total lift.

    The researchers also looked at the evolution of feathers in other related dinosaurs, cataloging what kinds of feathers they sported. It turns out that different feathers on different parts of the body were probably used in a number of different ways, from insulation and maneuvering to camouflage and display, but particularly display. Eventually, those feathers were "recruited for aerodynamic functions," the authors said.

    "This indicates that the origin of flight in avialans was more complex than previously thought and might have involved several convergent achievements of aerial abilities," the study authors wrote.
    ..."

    I think I should point out that feathers are not essential for the evolution of flight; the existence of the featherless flying bats being one proof of that. That doesn't mean feathers nevertheless didn't evolve first.
  2. Standard memberDeepThought
    Losing the Thread
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    03 Jul '14 13:37
    Originally posted by humy
    http://phys.org/news/2014-07-fossil-archaeopteryx-sported-feathered-trousers.html

    "...
    New fossil shows Archaeopteryx sported 'feathered trousers'

    The origin of feathers and the origin of flight have been a contentious chicken-and-egg issue in the scientific world for decades. Did feathers develop as a flight mechanism - or were they first used for other ...[text shortened]... lying bats being one proof of that. That doesn't mean feathers nevertheless didn't evolve first.
    Well, ok., but I don't see why this is new since T.Rex is meant to have feathers - although I don't know if that is proved, or just a theory.
  3. Joined
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    03 Jul '14 14:42
    Originally posted by humy
    http://phys.org/news/2014-07-fossil-archaeopteryx-sported-feathered-trousers.html

    "...
    New fossil shows Archaeopteryx sported 'feathered trousers'

    The origin of feathers and the origin of flight have been a contentious chicken-and-egg issue in the scientific world for decades. Did feathers develop as a flight mechanism - or were they first used for other ...[text shortened]... lying bats being one proof of that. That doesn't mean feathers nevertheless didn't evolve first.
    Isn't that old news?
  4. Joined
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    03 Jul '14 15:476 edits
    Originally posted by Metal Brain
    Isn't that old news?
    I didn't think so until now I have just checked. I know that some dinosaur fossils having feather imprints is nothing new but, as far as I was aware, this is the first good fossil evidence that feathers came before flight. But then I looked up T.Rex and read about one T.Rex fossil that had clear impressions of some feathers on it. I assume T.Rex didn't fly! Surely the paleontologists of this link new this? Mind you, T.Rex couldn't have been the direct ancestor of modern birds. Perhaps that is the significance of this Archaeopteryx fossil having feather imprints unsuitable for flight?
  5. SubscriberAThousandYoung
    West Coast Rioter
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    05 Jul '14 14:19
    T Rex flew around with its feathered forearms
  6. Joined
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    05 Jul '14 19:073 edits
    Originally posted by AThousandYoung
    T Rex flew around with its feathered forearms
    Those tiny powerful forearms must really flap fast!
  7. Joined
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    06 Jul '14 06:25
    Originally posted by humy
    Those tiny powerful forearms must really flap fast!
    Oh, come on. Everyone knows this. Yes, they had tiny arms, but the feathers were really
    long with strong stems running through them. What they did was to use their massive legs
    to jump really high, and then glide back down. That's how they got their prey. The prey
    throwing glances over its shoulders be like: "where he at? Where did he go?", smack!
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