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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_
266: 1259-66.

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 caudals.

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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