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Flight capablities of Archie & Confucius? Not so good...



Another paper out (following Senter's 2006 APP paper looking at shoulder
morphology) suggesting that Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis were not
powered fliers:

Nudds, R.L. & G.J. Dyke. 2010. Narrow Primary Feather Rachises in
Confuciusornis and Archaeopteryx Suggest Poor Flight Ability. Science
328:887-889. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1188895]

The fossil birds Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis had feathered wings
resembling those of living birds, but their flight capabilities remain
uncertain. Analysis of the rachises of their primary feathers shows that the
rachises were much thinner and weaker than those of modern birds, and thus
the birds were not capable of flight. Only if the primary feather rachises
were solid in cross-section (the strongest structural configuration), and
not hollow as in living birds, would flight have been possible. Hence, if
Archaeopteryx  and Confuciusornis were flapping flyers, they must have had a
feather structure that was fundamentally different from that of living
birds. Alternatively, if they were only gliders, then the flapping wing
stroke must have appeared after the divergence of Confuciusornis, likely
within the enantiornithine or ornithurine radiations.

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
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/
Fax: 301-314-9661               

Faculty Director, Earth, Life & Time Program, College Park Scholars
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite/
Faculty Director, Science & Global Change Program, College Park Scholars
http://www.geol.umd.edu/sgc
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