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Re: flying Archie

T. Michael Keesey wrote:

If it wasn't "inferior", then why did the modern style take over? You could argue that it was linked to something else that provided a significant advantage, but in the absence of any such explanation it seems simplest to assume that the modern style is "superior" (i.e.,
confers significant reproductive advantage).

I take your point. However, I think it's a case of apples and oranges. _Archaeopteryx_'s style of flight was (presumably) very different to that of modern birds. I don't know why or how it flew, and we'll probably never know for sure. However, there are probably many reasons why the modern avian body plan "took over" - associated with the ability to fly long distances, to better maneuver in flight, to catch prey on the wing, etc. But _Archaeopteryx_ may not have needed any of these things. Its style of flight was suitable for its limited purposes. Each to his own, I guess is what I'm saying.

The other reason why I avoid terms like "inferior" and "superior" when discussing evolution is that it implies progress. I know what you're getting at when you use these terms; but they do have baggage. In terms of numbers of species, passerine birds outnumber all other kinds of birds combined; but I wouldn't say that passerines are "superior" to ratites or penguins or birds of prey.

(Of course, Archie's style must have been "superior" to that of its predecessors.)

Again, this is apples and oranges (or oranges and pomegranates). Anyway, Archie's style may not even be "superior" to its predecessors. For example, the microraptorans may exemplify one of the pre-_Archaeoptyeryx_ stages in the evolution of flight. Although microraptoran taxonomy may currently be oversplit, microraptoran species are rather common in the Jehol biota. There may have been microraptoran-style gliders everwhere in the Early Cretaceous, and they may have outnumbered _Archaeopteryx_-style fliers.