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Re: Triassic protofeathers and fake-heads

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ken Kinman" <kinman@hotmail.com>

> 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

You have jumped head-first into the '50s-'60s progress trap (which relied a
lot on idly measuring endocranial volumes). In the Eocene there were no
really cursorial mammals because there was no open country! :-) The Eocene
had the densest forests worldwide of maybe the entire Phanerozoic! There was
no room for anyone to run!
        Mentally? The diversity has increased. The mean has not. Why should
it have?

>      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.

I don't know if it would work on a croc. Crocodiles learn from the behavior
of their prey.

>      Might sound like a just-so story, but it makes sense to me.

By far most just-so stories make much sense. Usually that doesn't help.


>      It seems to me that there is a clear trend among land vertebrates.
> Amphibians have pretty primitive brains and are pretty slow except for
> tongues.  Reptiles were more advanced in many ways, but it wasn't until
> Mesozoic that the endothermy thing really kicked in.

I repeat: The diversity has increased. The mean has not. There are 6,500
known species of "reptiles" and 4,500 known species of mammals around now.
I'm sure a Komodo monitor is much dumber than any of its prey.

> Birds and mammals with their endothermy had a running start
> when the Cenozoic began, but they certainly weren't as brainy and
> coordinated in the Paleocene or Eocene as are modern carnivores or their
> fast-running prey.

"Certainly"? Why "certainly"?
Cheetahs follow every curve their prey makes, they don't look for a shorter
way. Cursoriality doesn't automatically lead to intelligence.

> So I guess I would have to say that I do believe there
> is a trend toward increasing speed and intelligence in the history of
> predators and their prey.
>      The struggle for survival is a stress that inherently results in
> improvements (I'm trying to avoid the word "progress").

Are you? Really? :-) Such words have fallen out of favor not because of
political correctness, but because the evidence for them is very slim. The
"struggle for survival" only results in steady improvements in a world like
Darwin imagined it -- in a totally overpopulated world in which every single
ecological niche is filled. This has turned out not to be the real world.
        You do know how expensive a brain is?

>  Not too many
> decades ago, even Olympic ice skaters were just doing double jumps.  Now
> women *must* do triples and the men must do *quads* to compete.

And how does this compare to evolution?