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Re: Microraptor was a competent glider (but nothing to write home about)

On Sep 19, 2013, at 2:59 PM, Ruben Safir <ruben@mrbrklyn.com> wrote:

> If I understood the article correctly, they said that feathers would not
> even be needed for the gliding ability of this dinosaur.
> I have my doubts.  What would be the supporting hypothesis that
> assymetric flight feathers have an origin other than for flight?

That is an error in the popular articles.  The original paper makes no claim 
that the feathers are unnecessary for gliding.  What Dyke et al. demonstrated 
was that the hindwing feathers, specifically, do not add appreciably to glide 
performance (regardless of hind limb position).  

As for asymmetric feather vanes: there is as yet no non-flight related origin 
for them in the literature that I am aware of, but keep in mind that 
Microraptor does not have functionally asymmetric feathers (they are 
anatomically asymmetric, just barely, but not enough to be functionally 
notable.  Vane asymmetry ratio is about 1.3-1.4, which is about what you see in 
most flightless birds).



Michael B. Habib
Assistant Professor of Cell and Neurobiology
Keck School of Medicine of USC
University of Southern California
Bishop Research Building; Room 403
1333 San Pablo Street, Los Angeles 90089-9112
(443) 280-0181