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Neoteny & Avian Evolution



I don't know if this idea has been brought up before so I'll ask it and if
it has I'll just automatically expect the roasting to begin.

With recent discussion of tree climbing dromaeosaurids and feathered
Alvarezsaurids an idea formed in my head (dear god, I hope it is an
original one).  What if birds evolved as a result of neoteny from a very
early (as of yet undiscovered) dromaeosaur relative. 

When Varanus komodoensis young are born they quickly scurry up trees to
avoid being eaten by adult animals and other animals as well.  Perhaps the
same was true of early dromaeosaurs.  They may have been born with feathers
(or feather-like structures) for thermoregulation (or what have you) and
quickly scurried up the trees.  Eventually several may have had a genetic
mutation that caused them to reach sexual maturity prior to adulthood and
began to produce offspring with the same predilection for mating before 
full maturity.  At the same time their arboreal lifestyle also played a
role in selecting those animals who were capable of scurrying about in the
limbs of the trees and larger feathers (eventually leading to flight
feathers) would have been a very advantageous adaptation (as well as the
grasping digits of the manus as seen in young hoatzins who may lead a
"somewhat similar" lifestyle.)  This would progress until eventually you
had something similar to Archaeopteryx.

This may be why we don't see very many young dromaeosaurids (I know, that's
stretching it a bit).

I know this idea sounds a little far-fetched but who would have believed
that modern chordates evolved from a sessile animal like a tunicate.

Just a suggestion.  Let me know what you think (on or off the list, makes
no difference).

Thanks for your time and consideration,

Casey T.
TUCKERCJ@MUohio.edu
Miami University
Oxford, Ohio