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Re: flying Archie
The problem with terms like "superior" and "inferior", aside from the
being loaded, is that they're vague (superior at distance? at speed?
at maneuverability?). In this context, I think it makes sense to use
"superior" as "conferring reproductive advantage".
Graydon raises a good point about environmental factors. But, as far
as we can tell, long-, bony-tailed flying birds went extinct
everywhere (except Madagascar) by the Late Cretaceous. That's a lot of
environmental luck. Add to it the fact that bats and pterosaurs have
parallel development (long-tails giving way to short-tails), and a
suspicious pattern emerges.
That said, I thought of one other reason short tails would be more
advantageous: economy. Perhaps both styles of flying are just as
"good", but the fact that one requires less "equipment" might confer
an advantage. (After all, plenty of nonvolant lineages have reduced
tails, too--e.g., present company.)
Still, I can't shake the feeling that most modern birds (except for
those who have secondarily lost the ability) can fly longer, faster,
and more skillfully than Archie could.
T. Michael Keesey
The Dinosauricon: http://dino.lm.com
Parry & Carney: http://parryandcarney.com