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Ray Stanford wrote:
>Having seen some bantam chickens with small feathers growing out of some
>places on the tops and sides of their toes, to say nothing of a fluorescence
>of feathers playing out almost as a upside-down flower, on the leg (including
>metatarsal area), that would not be so unexpected by me.
Feathered toes do exist among contemporary birds but they are decidedly
unusual, even feathered tarsi are uncommon. The reason for this is probably
that feathers that close to the ground are difficult to keep clean and intact
(wet and tattered feathers being no good as insulation, and thus useless).
The bantam chickens referred to are the result of human breeding (wild _Gallus
gallus_ have bare toes and tarsus). Even so they are significant since they
show that feathered toes can easily evolve in contemporary birds. The most
significant case of "natural" feathered toes I can think of is the
arctic/montane _Lagopus_ grouse (three species). The name _Lagopus_ by the way
means "hare-foot" and alludes to the downy feet. In this case the feathered
feet is presumably an adaptation to life in extreme cold.
Maybe the North Slope or Southeastern Australia would be good places to look
for feathered dinosaur tracks?