Nav: Home

Study shows flight limitations of earliest feathered dinosaurs

January 28, 2019

Anchiornis, one of the earliest feathered dinosaurs ever discovered, was found to have the ability to fly. However, could it fly like birds today? A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by researchers from China and the U.S. says no.

The flight feathers of modern birds are mainly composed of β-keratin, which gives them special biomechanical properties (such as flexibility, elasticity and strength) to meet the needs of flight.

Dr. PAN Yanhong from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) and her colleagues used electron microscopy and chemical analyses to compare flight feathers of Anchiornis with those of a chicken and four other feathered dinosaur and fossil birds.

They found that Anchiornis feathers were predominated by thicker α-keratins rather than thinner β-keratins, and lacked the biomechanical properties needed for flight, although they did contain some of the necessary molecular structures as indicated by the presence of feather β-keratins.

On the other hand, Pan and colleagues also showed that the flight feathers of Chinese Mesozoic birds such as Eoconfuciusornis and Yanornis, as well as a Cenozoic bird, were mainly composed of β-keratins, as in modern birds.

The findings suggest that even though Anchiornis feathers were not suitable for powerful flight, their molecular composition may signify an intermediate stage in the evolution of avian flight feathers.

Researchers from NIGPAS, the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Linyi University, North Carolina State University, and South Carolina State University participated in the study. It was supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

Related Fly Articles:

Which extinct ducks could fly?
We're all familiar with flightless birds: ostriches, emus, penguins -- and ducks?
What the hair of a fly tells us about cancer
Cells divide into two identical cells that then divide in turn, meaning that any tissue can grow exponentially.
How the Galapagos cormorant lost its ability to fly
UCLA scientists discovered that changes to the genes that shortened the Galapagos cormorant's wings are the same genes that go awry in a group of human bone disorders characterized by stunted arms and legs.
In fruit fly and human genetics, timing is everything
Using fruit flies, UNC-Chapel Hill researchers discovered a cascade of molecular signals that program gene activity to drive the fly from one stage of maturation to the next, like a baby turning into an adult.
Why do guillemot chicks leap from the nest before they can fly?
It looks like a spooky suicide when small, fluffy guillemot chicks leap from the cliffs and fall several hundred meters towards the sea -- long before they are fully fledged.
More Fly News and Fly Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...