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RE: Archaeopteryx not the first bird, is the earliest known (powered) flying dinosaur
My two cents worth on preadaptation to flight:
Don Ohmes wrote:
> Actually, if feathers served as camoflage, then they
> would enhance hunting, particularly ambush predation.
And this reminds me of a piece of fiction I was working on in the early
90's (as a diversion from my thesis) and which has languished on a cold
back burner since then. I did persuade Ralph Molnar, then at the
Queensland Museum, to read a draft in '95, so I'm not just making this
up now. (Hi Ralph! Enjoying retirement?)
Anyway, I postulated a small, slender, green theropod specialised as an
ambush predator; its habit is to perch in foliage (especially of cycads)
and grab passing prey with a sudden two-armed lunge. It gets called the
'mantis lizard' for obvious reasons; one of the other animals I had in
mind was a very slender green extant agamid lizard, Diporiphora superba.
There must already have been some pretty intense selection for
camouflage, because at the stage of the early to mid-Jurassic when I
'saw' this little beast it had a fringe of very long scales (OK, lets
call them protofeathers) along the sides of the body, tail and limbs
that are a close match to cycad fronds, i.e. shallow-V-shaped in
cross-section, with a rachis but (as yet) no separate barbs, or overlap
between adjacent vanes.
Is this the same guy you saw, Don? I think it demonstrates some of the
ideas you've mentioned, providing a context where selection would act
for long and powerful arms with a swift symmetrical power-stroke,
perching ability, and elaboration and lightening of protofeathers before
any kind of flight became significant (but of course when camouflage
fails against a bigger predator, the critter just has to jump off its
perch - however high that is - and run away).