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RE: Archaeopteryx feathers (Re: Feathers on Bloody Everything)

On Saturday, May 29, 1999 12:00 PM, Ralph W. Miller III 
[SMTP:gbabcock@best.com] wrote:
> While it is well known that _Archaeopteryx_ exhibited remiges and
> rectrices (wing and tail flight feathers) which were thoroughly modern
> in design, it is less well known that the Berlin specimen reveals the
> presence of feathers (scarcely preserved though they may be) elsewhere
> on the body that do not clearly show the advanced morphology of extant
> avialan (bird) contour feathers.  The wispy hair-like appearance of
> these body feathers can be seen on the Berlin _Archaeopteryx_ specimen.
> See page 127 of Louie Psihoyos' _Hunting Dinosaurs_.  You can also see
> Carl Vogt's very early photograph (circa 1879) of the specimen at the
> Paper Dinosaurs exhibit from the collections of the Linda Hall Library
> at <www.lhl.lib.mo.us/pubserv/hos/dino/images/vog1h.jpg>.  This
> photograph was taken before the hips and head were cleared of matrix.
> There are several illustrations of the _Archaeopteryx_ specimens at the
> Paper Dinosaurs site.  The exhibit contents are listed at
> <www.lhl.lib.mo.us/pubserv/hos/dino/maincont.htm>.  Check out items 14,
> 14a, 16, 16a, and also click on "Click here to see Heilmann's
> Archaeopteryx" from 44.
> The hair-like feather impressions are most readily apparent on the legs
> (especially the right tibia), the breast, and the neck of the Berlin
> _Archaeopteryx_.  These impressions are faint, but visible, and they do
> not appear to resemble modern contour feathers.  It may well be that
> telling details, such as microscopic barbs, were present in the living
> animal.  If such features were indeed present, they simply were not
> preserved in the fossilized impressions visible today.

A little ironic that someone should make a lithograph of Archaeopteryx, don't 
you think?  You have to wonder whether another specimen was broken up to make 
the lithograph...

To more serious stuff.  Are you sure about this?  I looked carefully at all of 
the images.  The matrix is shown as a grainy background which could easily form 
fortuitous hair-like things by chance or as little rills when adjacent to solid 
structures.  Worse, the claw and some areas of the London specimen which seem 
to be just matrix, look hairlike to me (see the top center part of 14a).   The 
photo of the London specimen depicts the background matrix quite differently 
and does not seem to show traces of hair-like structures.  Finally, how can we 
differentiate between faintly preserved protofeathers and the plumaceous 
portion of a contour feather in this context?

Staring at a few jpegs for a couple of minutes is not the same as studying 
actual specimens, so I can't really claim to have an informed opinion.

  --Toby White