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

Dann Pigdon <dannj@alphalink.com.au> wrote:

> I'd have throught gliding wouldn't offer the necessary maneuverability to 
> adjust for a moving fish.

Maybe that's what _Microraptor_'s metatarsal feathers ("hindwings")
were used for?  One hypothesis is that hindwings enhanced
maneuverability.  They were eventually replaced by specialized
aerodynamic tail fans in the line leading to modern birds (e.g.,Zheng
et al., 2013; doi: 10.1126/science.1228753).

At the other end of the spectrum, I also wonder if the "wings" (both
fore- and hind-) of _Microraptor_, _Archaeopteryx_, _Anchiornis_ etc
were used solely in terrestrial locomotion, such as to help negotiate
hilly or broken terrain.  I know this is heresy in some quarters.  But
this is how the flightless kagu uses its wings, more so than for
gliding down from trees.

> I'd imagine the low approach speed would give fish more opportunity to see 
> the predator coming as
> well.

Yeah, I'm not sold on the idea of aerial attacks from above.  It's
essentially the "pouncing proavis" model with fish targeted instead of
terrestrial prey.

> Gliding across water barriers that you wouldn't want to swim across (due to 
> the presence of crocs,
> labyrinthodonts, big predatory fish, pliosaurs, etc) would certainly be 
> useful. It'd enable something
> the size of Microraptor to reach areas that similar sized terrestrial 
> competitors couldn't (without
> risking being eaten). They'd only have to worry about being taken by a 
> pterosaur.

Yes, but how does the glider get out again?  It can glide in... but it
can't glide out.  Poor _Microraptor_ would be marooned.