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Re: Archaeopteryx gets a brain scan

At 3:17 PM -0700 8/5/04, Jaime A. Headden wrote:

An interesting test for secondary flightlessness would be to see if a flight-oriented brain existed in an animal that could not fly. If, as some assume, *Archaeopteryx* was not capable of powered flight, this may very well be a key piece; Paul, however, I know beleives Archie to be a powered flier. If something that is know for control in a 3D environment (say, flying or swimming, or possibly arboreal) exists in an animal that does not in fact seem capable of being in that environment (ie., it is terrestrial), it would appear to suggest either a part of a step-wise increase in such features from one environment to another, or a decrease/reversion/loss series.

Modern flightless birds are said to retain the brain structure evolved by their flighted ancestors, and if this is true in the Cretaceous as well as today, it would be a good way to assess the ancestry of theropods thought to be secondarily flightless birds. It would be really interesting to get a scan of Microraptor as well, to compare it with arboreal animals. My guess is that the results are not going to be simple to interpret, but they're certainly going to be interesting. -- Jeff Hecht