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RE: Sinosauropteryx feathers?
At 09:31 PM 03/12/02 -0500, MariusRomanus@aol.com wrote:
I wonder if a MALE bird of paradise was to be fossilized, would those
radically wild display plumes hidden deep beneath their regular old
plumage be clearly preserved? Would we ever find the bird to begin with?
My best educated guesses are "No"...
Well, I'm coming into this debate a bit late (having just returned from
several weeks in Chile), but I am not sure that this is necessarily a good
guess. First of all, you have to distinguish between those bird fossils
that do not preserve any integumentary structures at all (the vast
majority) and those which do. Of the latter, I would suspect that the
larger remiges, rectrices and display plumes (if present) may well be more
likely to fossilize than contour feathers which may be less robust - this
is probably the case for Archaeopteryx. And of course there are many
specimens (I gather) of Confuciusornis that clearly show remarkable long
tail plumes on some individuals (presumably, though not necessarily, males
or at least mature adults) but not on others. If this sort of thing can
show up on a Cretaceous fossil I see no reason why it could not do so on a
more recent one, given the appropriate conditions.
However, that is not - as I gather - really relevant to this issue. As I
understand it the question is what kind of integumentary structures
Sinosauropteryx had, and the suggestion is that the "protofeathers" we can
see may have been replaced or augmented by "modern" feather types on other
individuals. I suppose this is possible but if so it would be most
extraordinary. We are not talking here about a few extra display feathers
but an entirely different, basic class of feather otherwise only known for
sure in clades that do not include Sinosauropteryx and that presumably
represent a later stage in feather evolution. For the speculation given
here to be correct we would have to assume not only that "modern" feathers
appeared much more basally than is currently believed (which is certainly
possible, but there is no evidence for it), and that these basic feather
types were only present on certain individuals (something that we do not
see on ANY living or fossil bird - I know of no bird in which only one sex
has down or bristles, for example).
Of course an artist can do anything he likes; he can restore a feathered
Triceratops if he wants to. However, I am not sure that it is helpful to
our understanding of what a fossil creature may have been like (surely one
purpose of restoration) to give it features that are not only unknown in
the fossil (restoration would be impossible if you couldn't do that) but
for which there is reasonable evidence suggesting that they were not present.
PS - As far as I know there are no known fossils of birds of paradise.
Ronald I. Orenstein Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org