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Mesozoic feathers.

Dear Toni,

>But there is litte about bibliography and studies on fossil feathers.

I published a paper on the taphonomy of feathers (Davis, P.G. and Briggs,
D.E.G. 1995. The Fossilization of Feathers.  Geology. 23(9). 783-786) in
there is a table of all known fossil feather localities and references to
the literature. It is missing about four sites that have since  come to my
attention (Las Hoyas, Spain and Liaoning, China - both Cretaceous-and 2
Tertiary ones in Japan).

>Feathers are very important in fly evolution!..[other bits snipped]

Yes they are, but everyone has ignored what evidence there is and
propounded there own theories for the origin of feathers.  There is a good
paper on the 'how?' rather than the 'why?' of feather origins it is 
Brush, A. H. 1996.  On the Origin of Feathers. J. Evol. Biol. 9.  131-142.

The following is my personal observations on early (Mesozoic) feathers.

The earliest is a feather from the Jurassic of Karatau (Rautian et al 1978
- see my paper above for the original ref) it is very primative in respects
to flight dynamics (low number of vanes per unit area).  The SEM structure
of the preservation definetely indicates it as a feather and not as plant
material as has been argued.

Archaeopteryx - lots of info in the literature but to summarise - efficient
aerodynamical feathers (in respect to above index - although still low and
intermediate compared to modern volant birds)

Chinese Lower Cretaceous Birds (Confuciusornis and other undescribed
material) modern aerodynamical feather configurations (with indices similar
to modern birds)

Albian bird feathers ( Crato, Brazil and Koonwara, Australia) :
Crato feathers - intermediate between the values of Archaeopteryx and the
Chinese material.
Koonwara feathers - intermediate between Karatau feather and Archaeopteryx.

Las Hoyas - I haven't personally examined this material and you are
probably in a much better position to do this than I!

Other stuff - I have looked at it in detail so I can't comment.

Make of this data what you will because it is confusing.  Please feel free
to quote this as a pers. comm.  as I will probably never publish it.  In
return please keep me informed of any new fossil feathers and, if possible,
photographic slides would be much appreciated.

As you note I will not get drawn into an argument for or against any
particular hypothetical use of feathers before they were used for flight as
it is a waste of time as there is no data to back up any argument and as
the English proverb says "empty vessels make the most noise" and as someone
might classified me as "empty" I try and hide the fact by make no "noise"!

Kindest regards

Dr. Paul G. Davis
Division of Vertebrate Palaeontology, National Science Museum, 3-23-1
Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169, Japan.
e-mail davis@kahaku.go.jp
Tel + 81 3 3364 2311
Fax. + 81 3 3364 7104