----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2001 3:16
Subject: My take on the whole "origin of
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
Then they also could've
doubled for flying, swimming, brooding, selling used cars, what have
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