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Re: feathers as N2 excretors

In a message dated 10/18/98 9:35:43 AM, Martin at cockatoo@csi.com wrote:
<<Further to the suggestion that feathers are actually a pathway for the
excretion of Nitrogen products, does this imply that fur, hair, nails, scales
etc are for the same purpose? Was this considered by the proponents of this
idea, anyone?
    Should we then consider that all manifestations of specialization may be
mere secondary adaptations of the need to eliminate waste products, so that
shells on eggs are a means of ridding the body of excess calcium or other
chemicals, as are losing milk teeth, leaving your teeth in carcasses,
developing pupae cases, spinning webs, producing slime, growing shells, to
name but a few potential candidates?
    But then I have to remember that arsenic, if ingested,  can be found in 
hair and nails. Hmmm>>
    Martin, your thoughts are refreshing. This excretion bugaboo is a
recurrent theme on this list that I always yuk over (was that mirth or
distaste, you ask -- both, I answer). The proponents of N, S, etc secretion by
feathers and hair seem to have overlooked something -- THE KIDNEYS. These
rather substantial organs not only exist for a real purpose (guess what --
SECRETION) but as is taught in Physiology 404, they are damn good at it. It
has been a long time since I studied this vast subject at Cornell Medical
College (they had a whole Renal Physiology Division when I was there), but I
seem to recall that the intensely active kidneys filter your entire blood
volume once every - let's see - two minutes? Three? Something like that. They
do so without losing substantial water, and routinely get rid of vast
quantities of C, N, S, X, Y and Z. This goes on constantly and quickly. No
need to wait for a hair or a feather to grow.
    Regarding arsenic, a toxic analog of phosphate, I am sure that if it
doesn't kill you, it will filter out in the urine to an extent of about
99.9999%, and the trace left in your hair, detectable by the coroner if you
don't make it, is nothing but a minor residue.
    Regarding bird evolution, I have just had a major breakthrough revelation
while writing this note. Perhaps protobirds first climbed trees in order to go
fffft -- and watch with mirth as secreted C, N, S, X, Y, and Z spattered on
their larger, earthbound cousins. Then, as ground-based dinos got bigger and
bigger, and could no longer be dumped upon with impunity, the protobirds
realized that without feathers they were doomed, so they decided to evolve
these useful airfoils as a means to soar over and dive bomb their enemies.
    This new theory, which I shall call the scatopteryx theory, is
parsimonious in that it provides an easy explanation of the origin of modern
pigeon/statue relationships.
    Tom Hopp  -- Copyright 1998, all rights and royalties reserved