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WAIR on NPR



Hi all --

Mainly a lurker here, but I just wanted to post a quick note:  there was a
brief discussion about the WAIR paper on NPR ("All Things Considered", I
think) yesterday afternoon, in which they discussed (with the author of
the paper) how the idea came to be, and its basic implications.  It was
actually a rather charming story about the researcher's son trying to work
on a school project on measuring chukar chicks' ability to fly to the top
of haymounds.  When asked by his father how the project was going, he
replied, "Not so good.  The chicks are cheating."  Asked for clarification
on "cheating", he described how the chicks, instead of flying to the top
of the mounds, would instead fly to the mounds and run up the sides while
flapping vigorously.

They didn't discuss the finding of the effects of incremental changes in the
arm/wing feathering on the efficacy of WAIR, which disappointed me.

They then presented some sound-bites from Dr. Feduccia (who has a very
nice speaking voice).  His perspective was that while it was an
"interesting" finding, it did not relate to the origin of flight, since
Archaeopteryx ("the earliest known bird") would not have been capable of
producing the type of flapping motion that was observed in the WAIR
experimental subjects.

Now, maybe I'm misunderstanding something here, but I thought that this
behavior was being postulated for the early evolution of flight as would
have occurred in, say, basal dromaesaurs, and that Archaeopteryx would
have already progressed "past" this stage in flight evolution.  Thus, I
didn't really see how this was a relevant point.

Can someone help me out here?

--Dennis
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*   dchwang@itsa.ucsf.edu   *   xenopathologist at large!   *
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