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RE: At long last! Turner, Makovicky & Norell on dromaeosaurids
I have not had time to read this tantalizing new work, but it is loaded with
new photographs of the source fossils and tons of analysis, twists and turns.
Surely everyone on this list will have this resource close at hand for many
years to come.
Note that it has all kinds of information for those of us who study bird
origins. It finds no support for the phylogeny of Xu et al., 2011; it moves
Xiaotingia into the Troodontidae, and moves Archaeopteryx back into Avialae.
Furthermore it recovers Epidendrosaurus as a basal avialan (the MOST basal one,
before Archaeopteryx), and places Epidexipteryx as just outside the split
between Avialae and deinonychosaurs, possibly giving us a glimpse or a model
for what the ancestral paravian looked like.
It also recovers the most basal dromaeosaur as Mahakala, a short - armed form.
In this study, when we look at the most basal paravians and their closest
sister groups, we see many forms that do not look extremely flighty
(Epidexipteryx, Incisivosaurus, Mahakala). This may renew the possibility that
the ancestral paravian did NOT glide or fly, nor even necessarily have long
wings. Only an ancestral state analysis can assess this question empirically.
I look forward to a fruitful DML discussion on this pivotal piece.