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Similicaudipteryx feather ontogeny, in Nature

Xu, X., X. Zheng & H. You. 2010. Exceptional dionsaur fossils show
ontogenetic development of early feathers. Nature 464: 1338-1341.

Abstract: Recent discoveries of feathered dinosaur specimens have greatly
improved our understanding of the origin and early evolution of feathers,
but little information is available on the ontogenetic development of early
feathers1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Here we describe an early-juvenile specimen and
a late-juvenile specimen, both referable to the oviraptorosaur
Similicaudipteryx8, recovered from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of
western Liaoning, China9. The two specimens have strikingly different
remiges and rectrices, suggesting that a radical morphological change
occurred during feather development, as is the case for modern feathers10.
However, both the remiges and the rectrices are proximally ribbon-like in
the younger specimen but fully pennaceous in the older specimen, a pattern
not known in any modern bird10. In combination with the wide distribution of
proximally ribbon-like pennaceous feathers and elongate broad filamentous
feathers among extinct theropods, this find suggests that early feathers
were developmentally more diverse than modern ones and that some
developmental features, and the resultant morphotypes, have been lost in
feather evolution.

News item: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100428/full/news.2010.208.html

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Email: tholtz@umd.edu   Phone: 301-405-4084
Office: Centreville 1216                        
Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Dept. of Geology, University of Maryland
Fax: 301-314-9661               

Faculty Director, Earth, Life & Time Program, College Park Scholars
Faculty Director, Science & Global Change Program, College Park Scholars
Fax: 301-314-9843

Mailing Address:        Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                        Department of Geology
                        Building 237, Room 1117
                        University of Maryland
                        College Park, MD 20742 USA