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Re: Microraptor Had Iridescent Plumage

On 3/9/2012 3:21 PM, David Marjanovic wrote:

2) In my experience, hair/fur is durable and easy to clean relative to
>  feathers. Cleaning dried blood off of feathers usually results in a
>  bald patch.

I suppose that depends on the feathers.

In birds, either the feather or the underlying skin itself sloughs very easily -- (I note my experience is limited to the usual game and domestic birds, up to turkeys of the eating variety in size). Coagulated blood patches are actually helpful when plucking ducks and chickens.

That said, tough skin, firm attachment, and 'self-cleaning' feathers on Microraptor certainly are not to be ruled out, in my view.

But am I correct in stating that "primitive" feathers, while not the same as modern feathers, do not show any particular evidence of being able to function as camo, display, insulation or lifting planes (or permutations thereof) when fouled w/ blood? Or of being attached in some special way?

>  3) Mammals have tongues that are highly optimized to cleaning reachable
>  areas, which includes lips (sensu 'hairy') and forelimbs that function
>  well as 'wash cloths' -- cleaning is even a logical reason that
>  dewclaws are retained in (e.g.) canid forelimbs.

You're likely right about the tongues -- but concerning forelimbs, well, maybe 
you just found the reason why the finger claws weren't reduced to their extant 
size range any earlier in the ancestry of birds. I really should have thought 
of this earlier.

Cleaning parasites, anyways -- and they would be handy for vertical climbing. I wonder if Hoatzin juveniles use their claws for grooming...

But relative to cleaning blood off the snout, you would just be cleaning feathers w/ more feathers, and (I assume) no handy tongue to subsequently clean the wings.