Some extracts from the latest

Picture Credit: H. Tischlinger

Paleontologists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich are currently studying a new specimen of Archaeopteryx, which reveals previously unknown features of the plumage. The initial findings shed light on the original function of feathers and their recruitment for flight.

. . .  The eleventh specimen of the iconic "basal bird" so far discovered turns out to have the best preserved plumage of all, permitting detailed comparisons to be made with other feathered dinosaurs. . . . The new data make a significant contribution to the ongoing debate over the evolution of feathers and its relationship to avian flight. 

"For the first time, it has become possible to examine the detailed structure of the feathers on the body, the tail and, above all, on the legs," says Oliver Rauhut. . . . "Comparisons with other feathered predatory dinosaurs indicate that the plumage in the different regions of the body varied widely between these species. That suggests that primordial feathers did not evolve in connection with flight-related roles, but originated in other functional contexts," says Dr. Christian Foth of LMU and the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology in Munich, first author on the new paper.

Predatory dinosaurs (theropods) with body plumage are now known to predate Archaeopteryx, and their feathers probably provided thermal insulation. Advanced species of predatory dinosaurs and primitive birds with feathered forelimbs may have used them as balance organs when running, like ostriches do today. Moreover, feathers could have served useful functions in brooding, camouflage and display. 

. . . These observations imply that feathers acquired their aerodynamic functions secondarily: Once feathers had been invented, they could be co-opted for flight. "It is even possible that the ability to fly evolved more than once within the theropods," says Rauhut. "Since the feathers were already present, different groups of predatory dinosaurs and their descendants, the birds, could have exploited these structures in different ways." The new results also contradict the theory that powered avian flight evolved from earlier four-winged species that were able to glide.

Archaeopteryx represents a transitional form between reptiles and birds and is the best-known, and possibly the earliest, bird fossil. It proves that modern birds are directly descended from predatory dinosaurs, and are themselves essentially modern-day dinosaurs. . . . 

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Replies to This Discussion

What a magnificent specimen! A geologist's dream find. They must have had an evolutionary advantage of being above the ground watching for movement of prey.

God put those "fossils" in the earth to fool Darwinists.

Yeah, I can't decide which approach is worse.  There are those creationists who insist that every single find that we make is fully bird or fully dinosaur.  And each one of our probable recent ancestors are either fully human or fully ape (ignoring the fact that modern humans are fully ape).

Then, there are people who go completely bat-shit conspiracy-nut, where anything can be dismissed with a quick invocation of the Devil.  Your version of it is a little inaccurate, since they would never accuse God of something like that.  I see why you took the step back to God, though, since omnipotence means that, ultimately, He put them there, just through his proxy, Satan.  Most Devil-believing Christians are incapable of making that logical leap, for some reason, though.

That is a beautiful fossil.
it looks almost like a fossilized angel.
Oh, wait..... :-)
That is just awesome.

Apparently the birds are the ONLY dinosaurs that survived the meteor impact that ended the Cretaceous. 

A couple of years ago I tried to get a photo of a hummingbird in my Monarda patch and couldn't find it through the viewer. I looked over the top of my camera and the little bird was inches from my face inspecting my activity. It looked exactly like I would imagine a dinosaur would look, face to face. That convinced me of what I had been told in a geology class, that birds came from those huge critters that went extinct. Hummingbirds are feisty little demons. 

I had not seen the "Science Daily" site before, thanks for the link to a really interesting site!

Thank you for posting this story.

I think it's really interesting that feathers could have evolved for one purpose, insulation, and then be so useful for something completely different and transformative, like flight.  Then again, there are lots of flightless birds.  That must come up a lot, that a  structure of function is coopted, so to speak, for an entirely different purpose.   Like the development of toxins and biologically active components in plants and animals.  Even milk must not have started as food for baby mammals. 

 . . . and it is interesting to think that if the later dinosaurs had never developed feathers, then we would probably never had birds at all. 

Bats don’t have feathers but they nonetheless fly. As such, at least in some cases it cannot be ruled out that feathers evolved after flight. Bats seem to have been gliders before they were flyers (in that they don’t have feathers and have claws on their wings). Evolution from gliding to flying is logical (would supplement survival techniques without imposing consequences) and feathers might have been selected after flight to improve the ability to fly. On the other hand the development of feathers for purposes other than flying without a gliding period thereafter would have left the species for an extended period clumsily trading off one type of front limb usage (legs) for another (wings) with little or no associated natural advantages in the interim. The species would have of course been more vulnerable to predators during this time. Accordingly, it seems likely that if feathers developed before flight there was a pre-flight evolutionary gliding period all the same.

This leads me to ask, are there flying or gliding modern reptiles? I think there are swimming reptiles, but I dont know about flying. I suppose there were flying dinosaurs, but were they all free of feathers? Insects have entirely different anatomy. I wonder if their flight evolution has been describeD.


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