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



Ruben Safir <ruben@mrbrklyn.com> wrote:


> I have my doubts.  What would be the supporting hypothesis that
> assymetric flight feathers have an origin other than for flight?


According to this study, asymmetrical feathers are hypothesized to
have improved gliding ability compared to symmetrical feathers.  There
is no reason to assume that asymmetrical feathers evolved specifically
*for* powered flight.  Also recall that powered flight requires more
than just lift: thrust is needed as well, which is achieved by
flapping.


I like the fact that Dyke et al. do not advance _Microraptor_ as fully
arboreal - more as a terrestrial predator that opportunistically
climbed trees as part of a versatile hunting strategy.  One intriguing
suggestion (raised in this study) is that this is how _Microraptor_
caught fish - by gliding down from a tree into a lake.  (The same
might have been true for _Confuciusornis_, also known to have fed on
fish, and interpreted by some studies to have had very weak, if any,
powered flight abilities).  However, it's unclear how _Microraptor_
would have actually seized the fish at the end of the glide -
presumably with the jaws, because all four limbs would still be in
aerial mode.






Cheers

Tim