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Re: [dinosaur] 2016 in paleontology + Dippy's last days in London + burrows around Omeisaurus + more

Tim Williams <tijawi@gmail.com> wrote:

> These two 2016 publications weren't included in the list, despite
> having a major impact on how we view the origin(s) of flight in
> theropod dinosaurs:
> Dececchi et al. (2016) The wings before the bird: an evaluation of
> flapping-based locomotory hypotheses in bird antecedents. PeerJ
> 4:e2159; DOI 10.7717/peerj.2159
> Domyan et al. (2016) Molecular shifts in limb identity underlie
> development of feathered feet in two domestic avian species. eLife
> 2016;5:e12115. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.12115

While you may find them interesting or even important, it's hard to fault a brief overview of last year's paleo highlights for not including them. For starters, Domyan et al. (2016) is not even a paleontological paper, and it has very little to say about the origin of flight – it deals with the topic in a single paragraph, which seems to be more of an afterthought in an otherwise solid piece of evo-devo research.

The Dececchi et al. paper is obviously more relevant in this respect, but I still think you are overhyping it by suggesting that it had "a major impact on how we view the origin(s) of flight in theropod dinosaurs". It might well prove to have such an impact in the future, but right now, less than six months after it was published, it's just too early to say. For what it's worth, a recent review of avian evolution (Mayr 2016) accepts and reiterates Senter's (2006) conclusion that flapping flight was biomechanically impossible for early birds, mentions "[t]he physical and biological implausibility of a strict 'ground-up' origin of flight" (p. 39), and presents a stationary leaping take-off as a highly derived locomotory mode associated with a complex of pectoral girdle and wing adaptations that is unique to a couple of deeply nested neornithine lineages. Based on that alone, I don't think the debate is going away anytime soon.


Mayr G 2016 Avian Evolution: The Fossil Record of Birds and its Paleobiological Significance. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons

Senter P 2006 Scapular orientation in theropods and basal birds, and the origin of flapping flight. Acta Palaeont Pol 51(2): 305–13

David Černý