Feeds

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

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.