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Re: My take on the whole "origin of feathers" thing.....

----- Original Message -----
From: *
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2001 3:16 AM
Subject: My take on the whole "origin of feathers" thing.....

     The biggest thing that stuck out of the whole paper (despite the xeroxness of it all) were that the filamentous integument (i.e., the feather clumps). The filaments were all parallel. [...] Well, for spending as much time as it did out of burial, those filaments are aweful straight. Not even the burial process curved or bent them to a significant degree (except the example in figure 4). The fact that the paper says that these feathers match the characteristics of downy feathers makes this seem more remarkable. Downy feathers are soft and stuff.... These feathers don't even look frayed.
IMHO calling them parallel is a slight exaggeration, they rather look spread like hair in water.
The paper also states that they appear to have been keratinaceous (sp.?), and keratin makes up harder parts like claw sheaths, armor, fingernails, etc..
Keratin is the main epidermal solid. It is the main component of the uppermost skin layers -- the harder skin is the more keratin it contains -- and the AFAIK only component of everything that grows from the epidermis, such as hairs, feathers, scales/scutes, claw sheaths/nails/hooves, horn sheaths...
These feathers could've been harder and acted like porcupine needles. They wouldn't have to be too rigid, just prickly enough to hurt, [...] Spines like these, for obvious reasons, would've been of great use to the animals on their necks. On the limbs and tails they would've been of great use because it would prevent predators from biting them there and dragging them to a better biting position. Larger feathers would've meant that that trait might've passed to offspring, and so larger quills (that's it!! Woohoo!) would've been more attractive to potential mates, and so they got larger. Then they might've gotten flashier to attract mates, and so on and so on.
   Then they also could've doubled for flying, swimming, brooding, selling used cars, what have you....
    Anywho, *_I_* think it's an idea worthy of further research.
I think it is definitely worthy of looking for fossils that might support it.
It doesn't rule out that the initial scale elongation was due to something else, like dumping protein... well, I still haven't looked up taurocholin, so I better keep silent.