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I have been receiving questions about the probable feathers found associated
with the head of Mononykus. Mary's SVP talk on the subject may prove to be
one of the most important paleo talks ever given, because the evidence is so
excellent. The simple feathers are not impressions or poorly preserved
tissue. They are excellently preserved, 3-D, tubular keratin structures that
closely match the simplest bird feathers at the macro and micro levels, and
perhaps at the biochem level. (If they do not do the latter, it may be due to
long term alteration by geochemical forces.) The scanning electron and other
photos of the feathers were stunning. The Mononykus fibers also seem to match
the those of Sinosauropteryx in many regards. Mary's talk renders obsolete
common assertions by Feduccia, Brush and others that the simple fibers of the
two dinosaurs are not similar to those of any birds - check out vulture head
The best thing about Phil's talk was that he has actually seen the
Sinosauropteryx fossils, unlike some others who talked about them at SVP.
Phil showed a beautiful slide of the even better, complete specimen which
shows that the fibers were not restricted to the body midline, so they could
not represent some sort of midline frill!!!
The grave for hypotheses that theropods were scaly ectotherms and/or
unrelated to birds seems to be getting deeper. Not that I'm complaining.