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Re: Feathers as fossilized behaviour

Ronald Orenstein wrote:
> Whether you buy this or not - and it's rather speculative - the idea that
> dinosaurs had feather maintenance behaviours  seems to me to be hard to
> dispute - the proof is in the fossils of well-maintained feathers.  This
> leads me to the idea that we should perhaps look closely at these animals
> for adaptations to that end.  I have suggested the teeth of Caudipteryx -
> and if I am right, then perhaps (and I do mean perhaps!) the more advanced
> oviraptors, which had lost these teeth, had lost or reduced their remiges
> and rectrices as well.

I have mentioned in a previous post that those funny little tooth-like
things (for want of a better term) that some Oviraptorosaurs had
may have been useful in preening feathers (among other things).
Perhaps the sickle-claw in dromaeosaurids (and others) has its origins
as a preening device. And what of the kinked snouts evident in some
theropods (such as ceratosaurs)? Of course if you look for a
particular funtion you are bound to find things that could have
performed it.

Modern birds go to extreme lengths to keep their plumage in good order.
Humming birds need to be contortionists in order to do it - their
long specialised beaks are useless for preening, so they have to do
it with their feet (which has always reminded me of how frogs clean
themselves). Some parrots also produce a powder that they spread
throughout their feathers that helps to water proof (and perhaps
sanitise) the feathers. It seems that feathers are a costly feature
that would have (and indeed have) been lost if their upkeep was
too expensive to the animal. This begs the question: if they weren't
using them for flight, what could non-avian theropods have been
doing with them? I suspect they were useful for something, other
than just being an evolutionary hang-on. Would brooding or display
alone have accounted for their continued presence?

        Dann Pigdon
        GIS Archaeologist
        Melbourne, Australia

        Australian Dinosaurs: