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Origin of Avian flight

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Old Tuesday 18th September 2018, 09:02   #1
Fred Ruhe
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Diemen
Posts: 1,320
Origin of Avian flight

A new preprint (not peer-reviewed) free paper:

(NOTE: This proposes a non-dinosaur origin for birds...)

Piotr Bajdek & Tomasz Sulej (2018)

Hypothesis: Avian flight originated in arboreal archosaurs gliding on membranous wings.

PeerJ Preprints 6:e27213v1



The oldest feathers known to date have been found in archosaurs capable to fly. However, some of them (scansoriopterygids) flied by the use of a membrane rather than feathers. We therefore propose a new mechanism for the origin of avian flight by the use of membranous wings on both the forelimbs and the hindlimbs. It complements the Beebe’s (1915) prediction of the tetrapteryx stage. Paleontological and embryological evidence suggest that feathers are a modification of reptilian scales. Scansoriopterygids were covered mostly by down-like feathers which seemingly acted as a thermal isolation rather than were adapted for flight. Certain early birds, including scansoriopterygids, possessed elongate shafted tail feathers, which were probably used principally for display and resembled elongate scales. We suppose that display is the primary function of early feathers, which were preadapted for the thermal isolation and also the flight. The body of theropods was covered mostly by typical reptilian scales, yet some ornithischian dinosaurs possessed filamentous integumentary structures which might have had a comparable display function. However, it is doubtful that these structures in dinosaurs were homologous with avian feathers. Early birds probably shared with theropod dinosaurs an incipient endothermy, which was inherited from their common ancestor from the Triassic Period.


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