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four winged Archaeopteryx

Nick Longrich says he sees "flight feathers" (his words) on Archaeopteryx and he infers that it was "four-winged" (his words). However, his whole interpretative construct depends on his assumption that Archaeopteryx flew pretty well, and as I've argued too many times, that's highly unlikely. Archaeopteryx could not lift its arms above horizontal; it did not have the supracoracoideus structure in the shoulder; the furcula is rigid rather than flexible; the long bony tail provides a huge amount of drag rather than lift; the ends of the forelimbs have clawed fingers rather than primary feathers; etc. etc. Those feathers on the hind limbs could have been for display, or for aerodynamic turning in an agile runner and hunter. Longrich documents *aerodynamic* feathers which may or may not be "flight feathers", and "four-winged" is so prejudicial a term that it should be struck from any manuscript. Obviously, this question is going to go on and on until there's a resolution We still lack a full analysis, and it may have to wait for some new fossils. Meanwhile, we should go with as uniformitarian an interpretation as possible: and that says that Archaeopteryx was NOT four-winged.


Richard Cowen