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DROMAEOSAUR HAND FEATHERS
Life is so unfair. Surely someone with a lot of spare money could
have funded my attendance at the Ostrom Symposium. If you are
generous, rich, and sympathetic to my plight, email me at the address
below. Anyway, sounds like it was great fun and well done on the
reports that have been posted.
Onto some spin-off discussions, Ron has argued that maybe big,
predatory dromaeosaurids did not have remiges, as these might
have been fouled or broken in predatory strikes. This is indeed a
problem, and attendants at the last Pal. Ass. conference
(Portsmouth 1998) may remember that it was bought up after Alan
Gishlick's talk on the function of the _Deinonychus_ hand. Alan
argued that digit II of _Deinonychus_ supported primaries, as do
those of other feathered theropods. Julian Hume, an ornithologist,
asked much the same as Ron: wouldn't the feathers have gotten in the
Perhaps one solution is for the animal to fold the feathers back
along the arm, so that they are not fanning around in a sort of
cranial direction. I suggested this as a possibility after Julian
posed the problem, but I appreciate that dromaeosaurids (and probably
all non-avian theropods) almost certainly lacked the musculature and
concomittant feather mobility that would have allowed such action. Of
course, Greg Paul says that even _Archaeopteryx_ was not able to fold
its wing feathers as modern birds do, though I confess I don't know
enough about wing anatomy to truly understand why this is so.
Another thought it that some non-avian theropods could have modified
their primaries into stiff, spike-like structures that could not have
been fouled or snapped in predatory strikes. As always, cassowaries
provide the analogue. Their quill-like primaries leave no
osteological signature, are rarely broken (I've examined hundreds of
dead cassowaries - the famous Rothschild collection at Tring - and
there were no broken primary quills among any of them), and maybe
could be beneficial in aggressive use of the forelimb. I emphasise
I'm throwing out some purely speculative notions here, and by no
means am I taking this suggestion too serious.
More (on phorusrhacoids) to come.
"Joe, you drive any faster and *we'll* be going back in time"