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Re: Wrong Reconstructions
On Jan 25, 2011, at 4:34 PM, Jaime Headden wrote:
> The real issue is that aside from the "ebff"s, "feathers" in all fossils are
> non-plumulaceous, lacking apparent barbs, and nothing similar to "feathers"
> in the conventional (modern) sense.
This does seem to be the case for the most part, but I've been wondering
recently about how literally we can take this observation. My general question
(and I'm keen to see what others here think) is this: given an animal *with*
modern-grade, plumulaceous feathers, what are the chances that it would
preserve with that feather structure clearly apparent? Might we just be seeing
minor traces of much heavier feathering in many species?
- The first dromeosaurids discovered with feather impressions seemed to show
relatively non-barbous feather structures, but subsequent finds of quill knobs
in Velociraptor and the feathering in Microraptorines might suggest that more
"modern" grade feathers were present in a wider range of taxa, and just don't
always show up clearly.
- In some specimens a range of feather types is preserved, which provides
confidence that those apparently lacking barbs were indeed downy in that
individual. However, often the feather impressions are somewhat uniform,
possibly suggesting that we are only seeing trace elements of feather
structure. There are Confuciusornis specimens that look merely "fuzzy" (pardon
my intense use of technical jargon there...), for example - we know from other
specimens that, in fact, this taxon possessed contour feathers. One wonders
how often this happens, given that most taxa are not represented by hundreds of
specimens in the manner of Confuciusornis.
Just food for thought.
Assistant Professor of Biology
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