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Fossil feather substructure and possible taxonomic information



From: Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new online paper that might be of interest:



Arie M. Rijke, William A. Jesser & Stephan F. K. Schaal (2013)
Can the substructure of fossil feathers provide taxonomic information?
Journal of Ornithology (advance online publication)
doi: 10.1007/s10336-013-0929-4
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10336-013-0929-4



In the study reported here we explore a method for extracting
information on the identity of fossil bird families from the fossil
feather substructure and their possible taxonomic association with
extant bird families. Such information can serve as an ecological
indicator of the paleo-environment from which the fossil feathers have
originated. It has been established that the balance between the water
repellency and the resistance to water penetration of feathers can
provide taxonomic information on bird families. These properties of
feathers can be determined from the diameter of the barbs and their
spacing, and their values correlate to the behavior/habitats of a
large variety of families, particularly water bird families. The
observed relationship between feather structure and habitat/behavior
in extant water birds equally applies to fossil feathers and hence
offers taxonomic clues about its avian bearer. The method is most
productive for body feathers and limited to fossils of sufficient
quality to permit evaluation in terms of barb diameter and spacing.
The fossil feather collections of the Paleo-biology section of the
Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and the Senckenberg Research
Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt a/M were examined, and
those specimens most amenable to quantitative evaluation were
measured. The family relation of several specimens could be
independently verified by the presence of additional anatomic
material.