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March of the New Paper

The first new-paper announcement that gets forwarded from the Killed Threads list instead of to it!

----- Original Message -----
From: "Raymond" <itearuk@yahoo.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 2:23 AM

Subject: [DinosaurMailingList-KilledThreads] Feathers used as whiskers

Interesting article.


"Sexual selection has been the prevalent explanation for the
evolution of birds' elaborate feather ornaments. An overlooked
possibility is that feather appendages arose due to a naturally
selected sensory function involving sensitivity to pressure or touch
to facilitate obstacle avoidance either in flight or on land. Here,
we show experimentally that elongated facial feather adornments of
whiskered auklets (*Aethia pygmaea)*, a sexually monomorphic crevice-
dwelling seabird, have a mechanosensory use for orientation in
darkness underground. While navigating inside a lightproof maze
simulating the structure and conditions of breeding crevices,
whiskered auklets (n = 99) showed a 275% increase in frequency of
head bumps in the absence of their protruding feather crest and
facial plumes. A weak positive relationship (R = 0.36, P = 0.04)
between natural crest length and the frequency of head bumps in the
absence of the crest suggested that individuals with longer
ornaments depend more on these traits for navigation in the wild. We
hypothesize that protruding feathers evolved through a combination
of natural selection for sensory function and sexual selection as
known for other auklets. More widely, birds inhabiting cluttered
environments would benefit from elongated facial plumage that
mechanically detects obstacles."