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Re: Shaking up the bird family tree
We could do an allometric studies... But in principle all those
reductions could be controled by a single gene - if it is placed in
the right point of developmental control cascade: say, one that
control the AER tempo.
True; that is a possibility, which is why the rapid regain of the
functional flight apparatus is still a possibility, albeit still a bit
of a long shot.. There could be a small number of genes involved, but
the current evidence does not seem to support such a simple timing
switch for all of the aforementioned traits (and avian development is
pretty well known, at least assuming chicken models are applicable to
other groups). Quite a few of them could be affected in unison via
timing mutations (especially sternal complex and pectoralis mass).
However, wing length and forelimb structural strength appear to be a
bit more complicated.
Like you said, a combination of allometric studies and genetic timing
research might better determine likelihood.
Michael Habib, M.S.
Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
1830 E. Monument Street
Baltimore, MD 21205