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leaping predator theory



Hedenstrom, A. 1999. How birds become airborne. _Trends in Ecology
and Evolution_ 14: 375-6.

Is inspired by Garner et al's recent paper on the 'leaping predator
theory' (my main problem is their reliance on _Caudipteryx_ as a step
in the transitory sequence - if, as many of us think, _Caudipteryx_
is not a close relative of birds, its use in the scenario is
erroneous). Ref for this, incidentally, is _Proc. R. Soc. London B_
266: 1259-66.

Caudipteryx does feature heavily in the original paper, but in no way does the leaping predator theory depend upon the phylogenetic position of a single species. The theoretical argument, that wings evolved as control surfaces for use in a leaping attack, stands irrespective of whether Caudipteryx is a distant relative of birds, or just a degenerate bird as Feduccia claims. Caudipteryx just happens to fit very closely the intermediate leaping form predicted by the theory. Even if Caudipteryx does turn out to be a red herring, we'd still predict something like it as an ancestor of birds.

Graham K. Taylor
 

Dept. of Zoology
Oxford University
South Parks Road
Oxford
OX1 3PS
United Kingdom