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RE: _Microraptor zhaoianus_
Tom Holtz wrote
*The metatarsal I and pedal digit I are very distally placed, and the
penultimate phalanx of each of the toes is elongate: Xu et al. interpret
this as indicating a climbing habit.
Xu says that the foot structure indicates a ground-living ancestry.
One interesting suggestion from Xu is that Microraptor may have been
neither purely arboreal nor ground-dwelling. Suppose it was something
cat-like which dashed up the trees when it saw something interesting
and edible up there.
Microraptor was obviously far later than Archaeopteryx, but they seem
close. Suppose the common ancestor was a Microraptor-like animal
adapted for predation both on the ground and in trees, so it never
truly gave up ground-dwelling but spent a significant part of its
life in the trees. The ability to glide down from the trees might
offer an evolutionary benefit, giving an advantage to any dino-bird
with flight feathers. Perhaps it started by extending pouncing range
from tree limbs.
It's just a thought, but I think Xu may be onto something.
Jeff Hecht Boston Correspondent New Scientist magazine
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