EGU Blogs

feathers

The greatest story ever told, by fossils

A lot of recent(ish) posts featured on this blog have been about the evolution of flight and feathered dinosaurs. I promised to kick this habit, and write about something different, but this video by Carl Zimmer adds a really nice narrative to the story and is quite a nice little overview for anyone interested.

If you have any questions about bird-like fossils, feathers, their function, or dino-birds in general, pop them in the comments and I’ll see what I can do! Stay tuned for the latest in the #OpenPhD series, and more cool palaeo stuff. 🙂

Fossil feathers are frickin’ sweet

The origin and evolution of dinosaur feathers, and their colour and function, has been high up on the pecking order for palaeontologists of late. The adaptive poetry that unfolds from fossil finds allows us to bear witness to one of the most beautiful transformations in the history of life on Earth, and the attention to this story is rightly deserved. I’ve devoted quite a bit of this blog to writing about the whole dinosaur to bird transition before, in terms of flight mechanics, flight styles, evolution of flappable wings, feather distributions, sexing dino-birds, and whether new finds are actually worth raving about.

Microraptor gui is an infamous example of a feathered dinosaur (source)

Microraptor gui is an infamous example of a feathered dinosaur (source)

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Dinosaurs of a feather?

Feathered dinosaurs might not still be the new boys in town in the fossil world, but there’s still a tonne of cool research being done on them. One of the main fields is trying to figure out if different species were capable of powered flight, like in most modern birds. The recent finding of Aurornis xui appears to have confined the ability to fly just to a single feathered lineage, the one leading to modern birds, but how do we figure out whether they could fly or not?

Reconstruction of Aurornis xui Credit: Masato Hattori (source)

Reconstruction of Aurornis xui. Credit: Masato Hattori (source)

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Fly, my pretties, fly!

The origin of bird flight is one of the greatest stories evolution has ever told us in the history of life on this planet. To imagine how organisms that once ran around on the ground have descendants that soar through the skies is truly phenomenal, and represents a truly great leap in increasing the awesomeness of these animals. The secret of how it came about though is hidden away in the fossil record, with the mysterious tale ever-shifting as our understanding of early birds and feather precursors evolved.

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