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RE: alula

Philidor wrote, in part:

>I was looking at the Nat Geo dino pages when I saw the factoid about
eoalulavis, the 'first skilled flier'.  I checked the name and found that   
was the first with an alula, a tuft of feathers on the thumb, which helps
with takeoffs, landings, and slow flight.<

Although the alula, by definition, is a tuft of feathers that performs   
the function Jim C mentioned, I believe that the same function could have   
been performed by the unfused digits of more primitive fliers such as   
Archaeopteryx. By extending its digits outward and upward in slow flight,   
Archie could have created turbulence across the surface its wing the same   
way an alula does for modern birds, particularly if the digits themselves   
possessed feathers or some form of dinofuzz.  For that reason, I expect   
the evidence to show that the evolution of a feathered alula to be   
closely associated in time with the formation of a carpometacarpus.