[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
Re: Origin of feathers
You are not alone. I will be giving a paper on this topic: "the
informational origin of feathers" at Dinofest. It is an old idea. The
Harvard Biologist Earnest Mayr first suggested that feather might have
evolved this way in 1960s. Cowen and Lipps presented the "display
hypothesis" more formally in a 1982 paper (see below*). I published an
abstract in the journal _Evolutionary Theory_ on the similar
"informational hypothesis" last August (1997). Finally, I will be
presenting an updated version of the hypothesis at Dinofest. That's all
I have to say on the topic until then.
*Cowen, R., and J.H. Lipps. 1982 An adaptive scenario for the origin of
birds and of flight in birds. Proceeding of the 3rd North American
Paleontological Convention, Montreal, 109-112.
Jonathon Woolf wrote:
> Random musings . . .
> With all this stuff about dinobirds in the news, I was thinking about
> the origin of feathers, and how they might have developed from the fuzz
> that _Sinosauropteryx_ seems to have had. Looking over all the
> explanations that have been suggested, it occurred to me that all of
> them have been mundane explanations focusing on feathers as an organ
> that _did something_: insulation, gliding, etc. IOW, an organ that had
> some practical use. But I don't find any of these suggestions really
> convincing, mainly because they don't answer the 'what use is half a
> wing" question. Granted that a wing is useful for flying _after_ it's
> developed to a certain point, and a feather can be shaped into an
> airfoil _after_ it's reached a certain size. But what got the wing and
> feather to that point?.
> Hence, a different thought: maybe feathers developed not as an organ
> that _did_ something so much as an organ that _showed_ something --
> i.e., a courtship or territorial display of some sort. Something
> similar may account for ceratopsid head shields and sauropod tails, so
> why not protobird feathers? Bigger, brighter feathers = more chances to
> mate, thus you get long feathers through sexual selection. Long
> feathers catch air, producing a useful gliding surface for small,
> tree-dwelling theropods. After that, natural selection shapes the
> feathers and wing into airfoils.
> Sounds plausible to me. What do y'all think?
> -- JSW