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Oviraptors and birds (was Re: NEWS ON PACHYOPHIID SNAKES, ETC.)
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_
You know, among all the "nonavian" theropod groups, the oviraptorosaurs look
most likely to me to be secondarily flightless avians.
(1) Of all the Yixian nonavian theropods, _Caudipteryx_ and
_Protachaeopteryx_ are the only specimens to show a pennaceous
(vane-and-barbed) plumage, instead of just a downy "dino-fuzz"
(_Beipaiosaurus_, _Sinosauropteryx_ _Sinornithosaurus_). _Protarch_ looks
to be close to _Archaeopteryx_, but _Caudipteryx_ is likely a basal
oviraptorosaur (Ostrom Symposium). It may have inherited its feathers from
a basal avian.
(2) Elzanowski has linked oviraptorids and birds on the basis of cranial
similarities (palate, lower jaw) between _Ingenia_ and Aves. Although the
edentulous jaws are certainly convergences.
(3) The new _Avimimus_ specimen(s) found by a Japanese expedition apparently
show a mixture of oviraptorid and strikingly avian characters. (This is not
just rumor, there's been some mention of it in the Dino Archives somewhere.)
Then there's the new _Oviraptor_ specimen with some fusion of its anterior
The problem (where cladistic coding is concerned) is that if an early bird
came back to earth it would presumably lose a lot of its flight-related
characters (especially in the shoulder and sternum).
After all, it doesn't need them any more.
While on the subject of lizards, varanids do not, strictly speaking,
vocalise to my knowledge (the only exception is a _V. niloticus_ that
calls loudly on Degoba - - Star Wars fans will know what I am talking
Spelled "Dagobah" according to my Jedi Knight lexicon.
Actually, for a truly surreal sci-fi experience (especially late Friday
night after a productive night at the bar) check out Farscape. Alien beings
with Australian accents. Has to be seen to be believed.
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