Feeds

Boffins: Jurassic avians were more like Angry birds than modern ones

Couldn't flap wings, needed a push or jump to get going

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Bone-bothering boffins say that early birds were actually fairly rubbish at flying, so much so that they couldn't get airborne unless they jumped off from a high point or otherwise gained a helping push.

Artist's impression of the Archaeoteryx lithographica in flight

The Archaeopteryx in glide. Credit: Carl Buell

“We don’t think these things could take off from the ground,” explains Nicholas Longrich of Yale’s Department of Geology and Geophysics and lead author of a new study in to the matter. “They can’t fly like a modern bird.”

The geoboffins raked through the fossils of two types of primitive winged beasts, the Jurassic bird Archaeopteryx lithographica and the feathered dinosaur Anchiornis huxleyi, and found that the archaic avians probably did more gliding or ballistic soaring - Angry Birds style - than actual flying.

Both primeval creatures had multiple overlapping layers of long wing feathers that would have been hard to separate to minimise drag on the upstroke. Birds today have a single layer of easily strung out long feathers layered with shorter ones.

The prehistoric birds probably had to climb trees and then glide from there (there probably not being many handy catapults around), the study found, and their clumsy attempts to get into the air mark early experiments in evolution.

The wing feathers of Archaeopteryx and Anchiornis are very similar, but not identical. Archaeopteryx had multiple long flight feathers, but Anchiornis' multiple feathers are more simple and strip-like.

“We are starting to get an intricate picture of how feathers and birds evolved from within the dinosaurs,” said co-author Jacob Vinther, formerly at Yale and now with the University of Bristol.

“We now seem to see that feathers evolved initially for insulation. More complex vaned or pinnate feathers evolved for display.

"These display feathers turned out to be excellent membranes that could have been utilised for aerial locomotion, which only very late in bird evolution became what we consider flapping flight.”

The full study was published by Current Biology. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.