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Biplane birds of the Mesozoic

From: Ben Creisler

In the new issue of Science:

Xiaoting Zheng, Zhonghe Zhou, Xiaoli Wang, Fucheng Zhang, Xiaomei
Zhang, Yan Wang, Guangjin Wei, Shuo Wang & Xing Xu (2013)
Hind Wings in Basal Birds and the Evolution of Leg Feathers.
Science 339 (6125): 1309-1312
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228753

Recent discoveries of large leg feathers in some theropods have
implications for our understanding of the evolution of integumentary
features on the avialan leg, and particularly of their relevance for
the origin of avialan flight. Here we report 11 basal avialan
specimens that will greatly improve our knowledge of leg integumentary
features among early birds. In particular, they provide solid evidence
for the existence of enlarged leg feathers on a variety of basal
birds, suggest that extensively scaled feet might have appeared
secondarily at an early stage in ornithuromorph evolution, and
demonstrate a distal-to-proximal reduction pattern for leg feathers in
avialan evolution.


Michael Balter (2013)
Dramatic Fossils Suggest Early Birds Were Biplanes.
Science 339 (6125): 1261
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6125.1261

When the Wright brothers took to the skies from Kitty Hawk in December
1903, they did it in a biplane, a craft with two pairs of parallel
wings. Most early aircraft were biplanes, but by the 1930s, the faster
monoplane design, with just two wings, dominated aviation. On page
1309, a Chinese team presents dramatic new fossils suggesting that
early birds went through a similar evolution, starting off with wings
on both arms and legs and only later adopting the arms-only, monoplane