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Re: Feathers used like whiskers

Of course a tactile function for feathers is nothing new (viz. the rictal 
bristles on many birds); the new argument here is that some ornamental plumes 
may have evolved as tactile structures in, for example, burrowing auklets.  Of 
course the question then becomes, why do so few burrowing or burrow-using birds 
have such plumes?

 Ronald Orenstein
1825 Shady Creek Court
Mississauga, ON L5L 3W2

----- Original Message ----
From: Richard W. Travsky <rtravsky@uwyo.edu>
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Sent: Mon, February 8, 2010 12:46:27 PM
Subject: Feathers used like whiskers

Just to throw another usage in to the pot.

Follow link for full article


Birds may use their feathers for touch, using them to feel their surroundings 
just as cats use their whiskers.

The revelation that feathers have this hitherto unknown function comes from 
research on auklets, birds that sport prominent plumes on their heads.

Auklets with bigger crests, that stick out further, bump into things less.

A wider analysis suggests that numerous birds, from parrots, penguins, 
pheasants and hummingbirds, also use their feathers to feel their way.

Details of the discovery are published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Many species of bird sport elegant long feathers, either crests, beards or 
whiskers that adorn the head and face, or striking tail feathers.

Many of these feathers are thought to have a sexual function, being used to 
advertise a bird's virility to potential mates.

But Dr Sampath Seneviratne of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, 
Canada and Professor Ian Jones of Memorial University in St John's, Canada 
suspect they may also have a tactile function.