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Re: Another feather theory

On Mon, May 24th, 2010 at 12:50 PM, "Richard W. Travsky" <rtravsky@uwyo.edu> 

> A reader's letter in the May 22nd Science News suggests the following
> (paraphrased) in regards to a Sid Perkins article on feather
> development:
> When foxes and dogs try to catch chickens they get a mouth (or paw)
> full 
> of feathers. So, the feathers make for a fluffy target and aid in the
> feathered one's escape.
> I could see that might be an aid smaller birds but possibly not
> larger ones.

A 'feathery lure' would only evolve if it allowed the prey animal to escape 
often enough to justify 
such biologically expensive structures. You'd also expect very early feathered 
theropods to have 
quickly reduced the length of the bony tail while replacing it with 
increasingly elongated feathers, if 
feathers originally evolved as detachable lures. Perhaps there's a case for 
arguing such a strategy 
for Nomingia.

I see many suburban birds flying around quite well (albeit with less agility) 
without tail feathers, 
after a close encounter with a neighbourhood cat. However losing a few feathers 
is far less 
traumatic than losing feathers and a few distal vertebrae, as would have 
happened with early long-
tailed (and initially short-feathered) theropods.


Dann Pigdon
GIS Specialist                         Australian Dinosaurs
Melbourne, Australia               http://home.alphalink.com.au/~dannj