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Feathers arose 100 million years before birds

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Pterosaur reconstruction/Yuan Zhang.

Researchers hope that their findings will change how we look at dinosaurs, birds, and pterosaurs, the flying reptiles:

The key discovery came earlier in 2019, when feathers were reported in pterosaurs – if the pterosaurs really carried feathers, then it means these structures arose deep in the evolutionary tree, much deeper than at the point when birds originated… Co-author, Baoyu Jiang from the University of Nanjing, added: “At first, the dinosaurs with feathers were close to the origin of birds in the evolutionary tree.

“This was not so hard to believe. So, the origin of feathers was pushed back at least to the origin of those bird-like dinosaurs, maybe 200 million years ago.”

Dr Maria McNamara, co-author from University College Cork, said: “Then, we had the good fortune to work on a new dinosaur from Russia, Kulindadromeus.

“This dinosaur showed amazingly well-preserved skin covered with scales on the legs and tail, and strange whiskery feathers all over its body.

“What surprised people was that this was a dinosaur that was as far from birds in the evolutionary tree as could be imagined. Perhaps feathers were present in the very first dinosaurs.” …

“So, the dinosaurs, pterosaurs and their ancestors had feathers too. Feathers then probably arose to aid this speeding up of physiology and ecology, purely for insulation. The other functions of feathers, for display and of course for flight, came much later.” “Feathers came first, then birds” at University of Bristol

Maybe those 200 mya feathers were just for insulation. But maybe there are more surprises yet. Marcos Eberlin is probably right. Evolution has Foresight. 😉

Paper. (paywall)

See also: Feathers Originated 70 Million Years Earlier Than Thought

The Founding Feathers


Stasis: Life goes on but evolution does not happen

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Thank you Pater. It appears that no one knows how feathers came into existence. But someone seems to be trying to figure it out. ET
In Touchstone, Luskin Dismantles Giberson and Collins - October 10, 2012 Excerpt: The cover story in the March 2003 issue of Scientific American states outright that difficulties with the scale hypothesis show that the "long-cherished view of how and why feathers evolved has now been overturned." Its authors, two leading evolutionary biologists named Richard Prum and Alan Brush, further admit: "Although evolutionary theory provides a robust explanation for the appearance of minor variations in the size and shape of creatures and their component parts, it does not yet give as much guidance for understanding the emergence of entirely new structures, including digits, limbs, eyes and feathers. ("Which came first, the feather or the bird?", p. 86)" http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/10/in_touchstone_l_1065051.html The Taphonomy of Sinosauropteryx - August 2012 Excerpt: provides the basis for a forensic reconstruction of the stages leading to the dinosaur's death and the final preserved position of the external, dorsally preserved soft tissue, which proves to be more consistent with a uniform crest than individual, free protofeathers. http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.php/literature/2012/08/07/the_taphonomy_of_sinosauropteryx Dinosaur Feather Story Gets Hairy - July 2, 2012 Excerpt: One will look in vain, though, for veined feathers with barbs and barbules as found in birds. The authors label the structures “type 1 feathers,” meaning single filaments protruding from the skin. They are actually little more than fuzz, barely noticeable in the photos. Co-author Helmut Tischlinger said, “Under ultraviolet light, remains of the skin and feathers show up as luminous patches around the skeleton.” Some, like Brian Switek at Nature News, dub them “protofeathers.” He wrote, Palaeontologist Paul Barrett of London’s Natural History Museum agrees that the structures on Sciurumimus are probably protofeathers. Although additional geochemical work is needed to study the features’ details, Barrett says, the fossilized wisps are very similar to the fuzz seen on other dinosaurs. But he notes that the presence of these filaments among all dinosaurs is “speculation”,,, http://crev.info/2012/07/dinosaur-feather-story-gets-hairy/ Feathers Not Flying Over New Dinosaur Fossil - Casey Luskin August 2, 2014 Excerpt: Yet according to an article in National Geographic, "Fluffy Dinosaur Raises Questions About the Origin of Dinofuzz," we can't establish that these are feathers:,,, "At a basic anatomical level paleontologists have yet to discern whether the structures on Psittacosaurus , Tianyulong , and Kulindadromeus can truly be called feathers.,,," Did you note,,,? "At a basic anatomical level paleontologists have yet to discern whether the structures on Psittacosaurus , Tianyulong , and Kulindadromeus can truly be called feathers." Looking at the diagram from the paper, they sure don't look much like feathers:,,, I see wispy hair-like structures. I see dinofuzz. But I don't see feathers. A prominent critic writing in National Geographic says much the same. Yet these structures are being unapologetically called "feathers" in Science. It seems to me the theory is getting ahead of the data. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/08/feathers_not_fl088501.html Another Flap Over Dinosaur Feathers - October 31, 2012 Excerpt: The photo of 1995.110.1 shows only dark criss-cross markings on the bone that they “inferred to be traces left by shafted feathers.” They don’t bear any resemblance to actual feathers. This means that only one fossil had the carbonized impressions extending from parts of its forelimbs at some distance from the bones, leaving plenty of leeway to speculate about what they were, or whether they had any connection to the animal. Yet their artwork shows the adult with fully-fledged wing feathers, barbs, barbules and all, and even multiple colors!,,, There’s no way this specimen can have anything to do with the origin of avian flight. The authors did not even try to connect it to flight. http://crev.info/2012/10/another-flap-over-dinosaur-feathers/ Jerry Coyne's Chapter on the Fossil Record Fails to Show "Why Evolution is True" - Jonathan M. - December 4, 2012 Excerpt: Another paper published in the Journal of Morphology raises a further problem for the evolution of birds from theropod dinosaurs (Quick and Ruben, 2009). The paper reports, "Although crocodilian lung and cardiovascular organs are markedly less specialized than the avian heart and lung air-sac system, all living archosaurs possess four-chambered hearts and heterogeneously vascularized, faveolar lungs. In birds, normal lung function requires extensive, dorsally situated nonvascularized abdominal air-sacs ventilated by an expansive sternum and specially hinged costal ribs. The thin walled and voluminous abdominal air-sacs are supported laterally and caudally to prevent inward (paradoxical) collapse during generation of negative (inhalatory) pressure: the synsacrum, posteriorly directed, laterally open pubes and specialized femoral-thigh complex provide requisite support and largely prevent inhalatory collapse. In comparison, theropod dinosaurs probably lacked similarly enlarged abdominal air-sacs, and skeleto-muscular modifications consistent with their ventilation. In the absence of enlarged, functional abdominal air-sacs, theropods were unlikely to have possessed a specialized bird-like, air-sac lung. The likely absence of bird-like pulmonary function in theropods is inconsistent with suggestions of cardiovascular anatomy more sophisticated than that of modern crocodilians." Science Daily further explains, It's been known for decades that the femur, or thigh bone in birds is largely fixed and makes birds into "knee runners," unlike virtually all other land animals, the [Oregon State University] experts say. What was just discovered, however, is that it's this fixed position of bird bones and musculature that keeps their air-sac lung from collapsing when the bird inhales. Warm-blooded birds need about 20 times more oxygen than cold-blooded reptiles, and have evolved a unique lung structure that allows for a high rate of gas exchange and high activity level. Their unusual thigh complex is what helps support the lung and prevent its collapse. "This is fundamental to bird physiology," said Devon Quick, an OSU instructor of zoology who completed this work as part of her doctoral studies. "It's really strange that no one realized this before. The position of the thigh bone and muscles in birds is critical to their lung function, which in turn is what gives them enough lung capacity for flight." However, every other animal that has walked on land, the scientists said, has a moveable thigh bone that is involved in their motion -- including humans, elephants, dogs, lizards and -- in the ancient past -- dinosaurs. The implication, the researchers said, is that birds almost certainly did not descend from theropod dinosaurs, such as tyrannosaurus or allosaurus. The findings add to a growing body of evidence in the past two decades that challenge some of the most widely held beliefs about animal evolution. "For one thing, birds are found earlier in the fossil record than the dinosaurs they are supposed to have descended from," Ruben said. "That's a pretty serious problem, and there are other inconsistencies with the bird-from-dinosaur theories." But one of the primary reasons many scientists kept pointing to birds as having descended from dinosaurs was similarities in their lungs," Ruben said. "However, theropod dinosaurs had a moving femur and therefore could not have had a lung that worked like that in birds. Their abdominal air sac, if they had one, would have collapsed. That undercuts a critical piece of supporting evidence for the dinosaur-bird link. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/12/jerry_coynes_c067021.html
How scales became feathers: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42082489 https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/06/human-hair-bird-feathers-came-reptile-scales https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/alligator-scales-feathers-turned-into-dinosaurs-learn-fly-how-understand-a8069011.html Pater Kimbridge
There have been strong suggestions for years (decades?) that some of the ancient "birds" with feathers were probably NOT capable of flight. And while not trying to second guess The Design Team for "Project BIRD", installing a better insulation system may have been part of the Warm Blood design team's work. There ain't much point in generating mucho heato and simply DUMPING IT into the ambient air. It's clearly easier to design and build a "heating and ventilation system" if you have ways to stabilize heat loss. Or maybe one of the guys (or gals) just thought adding feathers would be a cool way to display racing stripes or school colors. But it's pretty obvious that there is no INCREMENTAL advantage to proto-feathers, from a descent with modification point of view. vmahuna
They should be focusing on what genetic changes can produce feathers in populations that never had them. Or if such a thing is even possible. But it's easier to just assume it. ET
Now that’s really cool, now if this pans out the first thing out of the mouth of someone like Jerry Coyne would be to come up with a function of the feather for the dinosaur and say it was repurposed for the bird, even though this still shows a form Teleology and creativity. This is pretty cool though AaronS1978

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