Boffins: Jurassic avians were more like Angry birds than modern ones
Couldn't flap wings, needed a push or jump to get going
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.
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. ®
Re: Not exactly a shock
"This ability would need to spontaneously appear in a large number of the species for it to thrive through procreation."
In 1860 that argument might have some plausibility. After Mendel it's just silly.
So, your view is that once some scientists involved in a given discipline make a mistake, everyone working in that field for the rest of history loses credibility?
You -do- realize that science -works- by making mistakes, right? And that without the people who theorized incorrectly about Apatosaurs and Tyrannosaurs, nobody would ever have found ways to show those theories to be faulty?
I get extremely frustrated when people think that a scientific theory being disproved is a failure on science's part.
Science is not engineering; the goal is not to map out a whole project and implement it all with as few failures as possible. The goal is to come up with an idea about how the world works, and find out if your idea is right or if it's wrong. Either way you learn something new and gain a more complete understanding of the world around you.
Experiments may succeed or fail to prove a hypothesis, but if executed properly, one way or another, they all succeed as *science*.
Sometimes I think they should toss out all of primary school 'science' education and just pound that into kids' brains for four years straight. We seem to have confused teaching *scientific results* with teaching *science* - and have done it so skillfully that even educated and intelligent people can't tell the difference.
Re: This is news?
"You'd think with all the billions of ants around we might see at least a few 8 legged ones climbing to the top of the ant-evolution tree."
We do - except we're more likely to say, "...the fuck! Dude, this thing has eight fucking legs! Check this shit out!" than to say, "Perhaps this an occasional but usually unobserved phenomenon indicative of a vanishingly brief snapshot of evolution in action..."
Things appear static and finished to us because we occupy a phenomenally short period of time and don't see into the future.
Your (and sadly, many others') argument is akin to, say, people who live their lives in a microsecond seeing a car as it's driving to the gas station. Some of them go all over the thing, look at the engine, figure out how internal combustion works, describe how the tires function, and all of this stuff, and extrapolate that it's probably going to that gas station over there, and probably came from wherever over here.
Then a bunch of people say, "Aha haha! What bullshit! This thing hasn't moved a bit! I mean, OK, we know that the engine is rotating and that the transmission works and that the driven wheels are rotating and we've even seen them rotate by a few millionths of a degree... so of course it can maybe go an inch or something, but an inch isn't all the way to the gas station! It could NEVER go THAT far because it's not already there! Why don't we see cars further up and down the road if cars can move, if you're so smart? Hah! Got you there, don't I!"
And then everyone else bang their heads on their desks and try to forget the whole thing ever happened. Which is what I'm going to do now.
Thunk, thunk, thunk.