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Re: Confuciusornis feather length and flight mode

On Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM, Jason Brougham <jaseb@amnh.org> wrote:

> Though the primary feather length of Confuciusornithids is shown in this
> new paper to group with volant ornithurines, the authors disregard the
> possibility of flapping flight again.

I interpreted the paper somewhat differently.  When it comes to
flapping flight in _Confuciusornis_, the authors seem to neither rule
it in or out.  There is no conclusion on this point at all.  Instead,
the authors talk about "unusual flight behaviour not seen in extant
birds", based on the "conflicting signals in the flight morphology" of
_Confuciusornis_.  Although they say it is unlikely that
_Confuciusornis_ was a vigorous flapping flyer, the authors do not
explicitly aver that it was incapable of flapping flight.

My take on the paper is that the ratio of primary feather length
(f-prim) to total arm length (ta) cannot be used as a yardstick for
flight behavior in all basal birds, because the flight apparatus in
these taxa was so much different to modern birds.  The authors were
using _Confuciusornis_ as a test case.