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Re: Another feather theory

On Sun, 23 May 2010, Dann Pigdon wrote:
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

When foxes and dogs try to catch chickens they get a mouth (or paw)
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.

How does that compare to a detachable tail?

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.

Why would it have to be just tail feathers? An attack from the side with
contact on the body could also result in a mouthfull of feathers.