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Feather origin hypothesis (for predator evasion??)
I have no idea if this has ever been proposed (I would think someone
somewhere would have proposed it as a possibility, but not sure if it has).
Before feathers were exapted for insulation, brooding, display,
gliding, flying, or anything else, could feathers have originally appeared
at the end of theropod (pre-dino-bird) tails as a predator evasion strategy?
It seems to me the most expendable part of reptiles and many other
animals is the tail, and various lizards use a brighter colored tail tip
and/or very detachable wiggly one as a sacrifice well worth escaping a
predator with one's life and minimal damage.
Couldn't small theropods have used similar strategies, and perhaps
increased it effectiveness by growing a protofeathered tail extension
(perhaps colored to divert attention more effectively to an expendable tail
tip) that might increase the probability of escape as it scampered up a tree
or down a hole.
Lengthening the protofeathers and growing them up the tail may have
enhanced the success of such a strategy, and as they spread up the back they
could have begun being exapted for other uses as well, like sexual displays,
and the rest (as they say) is history. Or even eye spots on such tail
feathers as a means to briefly startle a predator?
If such an origin of feathers has been proposed, why is it not taken
more seriously as the original purpose and driving force for the elongation
for such structures? And is there any possibility that the later evolution
of pygostyles, shortened tails, and longer tail feathers, could have been a
further refinement of such a strategy?
P.S. Any possibility that Longisquama's "structures" folded back and served
as a "false tail" in a somewhat similar fashion? Well, I think I'd better
stop now, as I've probably already provided lots of avenues to get
criticized. I'm just in one of those brain-storming moods I guess.
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