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Re: Science feather strength debate
Although it's not my intention to directly refudiate GSP, it is worth
pointing out that the Nudds and Dyke's feather paper is not alone in
inferring extremely poor flight abilities for _Archaeopteryx_ and
_Confuciusornis_. There is the work by Senter on scapular
orientation, which showed that neither bird was capable of a complete
flight stroke. This study therefore inferred that both were limited
to parachuting or gliding insofar as aerial locomotion was concerned.
Then there's the matter of the keel - absurdly small in
_Confuciusornis_, non-existent in _Archaeopteryx_.
Work elsewhere has demonstrated that basal birds retain the hindlimb
proportions of non-avian coelurosaurs. This suggests that
_Archaeopteryx_ and _Confuciusornis_ were most comfortable on the
ground, rather than in the air - or the trees. Although elevation was
required in order to become airborne (implying that these birds must
have climbed trees in order to launch), the climbing and perching
adaptations of _Archaeopteryx_ and _Confuciusornis_ were minimal.
For my 2c, all this points to _Archaeopteryx_ and _Confuciusornis_
dabbling in aerial and arboreal behavior; but they were not
particularly good at either.