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Triassic protofeathers and fake-heads
As I have noted before, my hypothesis is that the protofeathers
developed on the tails of Triassic dinosaurs, when they were still small.
I'm not talking about big Cretaceous dinosaurs which had 100 million years
of evolution in which to become smarter and more skilled hunters. Just as
early Tertiary mammals were slower (physically and mentally) than modern
mammals, the early dinosaurs were probably relatively clumsy and dim-witted.
Therefore, I think a protofeathered tail evasion strategy would have
worked well enough much of the time to give such early dinosaurs the
evolutionary edge. At some point I would guess that mimicking a
sauropomorph "neck and head" on your tail might have worked pretty well.
Better to have your tail chomped on than your neck or head. When
ankylosaurs and stegosaurs evolved into bigger forms and the predators got
smarter and manuraptorial, it wouldn't have worked any more, and therefore
things like tail clubs (and more armor in general) would develop in an
evolutionary arms race.
Might sound like a just-so story, but it makes sense to me. I predict
that many early ornithischians (perhaps including some heterodontosaurids?)
will be found to have had some interesting arrays of protofeathers on their
tails for camouflage or confusing/startling early theropods (especially
----- Cheers, Ken
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