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Author Topic:   Flight Ability of Winged Creatures from Fossil Record
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 11 (492164)
12-28-2008 11:17 PM


Could They Fly?
So, it occurred to me: if chickens (and some other birds) have wings but cannot fly, what reasons have we to believe that fossilized creatures with wings could fly? I guess this question hasn't any radical implications, but was just something I started wondering about for no good reason.

The kind of evidence we would need, I suppose, would be of such creatures living in high places that would not be easily reached by non-flying creatures. Perhaps a certain diet would prove something—flying birds eat fish, for example, while flightless birds do not. There are other potential evidences, but these are just some examples.

Anyone know anything about this?
Thanks,
Jon :)

Edited by Gremled the Great, : No reason given.

Edited by Jon, : No reason given.

Edited by Jon, : Changed 'dinosaurs' to 'fossilized winged creatures'


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AdminNosy
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Posts: 4754
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joined: 11-11-2003


Message 2 of 11 (492171)
12-29-2008 2:13 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
AdminNosy
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From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joined: 11-11-2003


Message 3 of 11 (492173)
12-29-2008 2:17 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
12-28-2008 11:17 PM


Title Fix Please
Jon, I've moved this to the Misc. area because this isn't an evolution question.

Also could you please edit and change the thread title since there were no winged dinosaurs. I think you mean the order of pterosaurs.


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Granny Magda
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Posts: 2380
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 4 of 11 (492179)
12-29-2008 4:21 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
12-28-2008 11:17 PM


Re: Could They Fly?
Hi Jon,

If you're talking about pterosaurs, the best evidence that they could fly is that they had lightweight hollow bones and keeled breastbones for anchoring powerful flight muscles, just like birds. These features would surely be impractical on land and serve no useful purpose.

quote:
Perhaps a certain diet would prove something—flying birds eat fish, for example, while flightless birds do not.

Er... penguins eat fish. ;)

Mutate and Survive


"The Bible is like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say almost anything you'd like it to say." -- Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade
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Larni
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Posts: 3975
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 5 of 11 (492202)
12-29-2008 7:32 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Granny Magda
12-29-2008 4:21 AM


Re: Could They Fly?
Just to let you know pterosaurs were not actually dinosaurs.
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Larni
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From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 6 of 11 (492203)
12-29-2008 7:54 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
12-28-2008 11:17 PM


Re: Could They Fly?
what reasons have we to believe that dinosaurs with wings could fly?

I think the simple answer is that feathered dinos used their feathers for insulation (such as Bamiraptor or velociraptor), rather than flight (the feathers were symmetrical).

They also show a half moon wrist bone (for grabbing) that could have allowed for a powerful down stroke of the arms: but do these count as wings? Certainly not capable of powered flight.

Feathers at this time (approx 135-65 mya) were mostly symmetrical so they could not really generate lift (see Caudipteryx).

Archaeopteryx, on the other hand had overlapping asymmetrical feathers but a pretty small breast bone compared with modern birds so it would have fluttered alone (rather than gracefully flying) and these were about in Jurassic times.

So I think you would be hard pressed to find an non avian flying dinosaur (to the best of my limited knowledge).

The kind of evidence we would need, I suppose, would be of such creatures living in high places that would not be easily reached by non-flying creatures.

Your best bet would be to look for a non avian feathered dinosaur fossilised in flight, at altitude. That would be a smoking gun.

Edited by Larni, : No reason given.


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NosyNed
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Posts: 8838
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 7 of 11 (492217)
12-29-2008 10:20 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Granny Magda
12-29-2008 4:21 AM


Re: Could They Fly?
If you're talking about pterosaurs, the best evidence that they could fly is that they had lightweight hollow bones and keeled breastbones for anchoring powerful flight muscles, just like birds. These features would surely be impractical on land and serve no useful purpose.

from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterosaur#Flight

quote:
One of the chief arguments against active pterosaur flight has been their relatively shallow sternum keel, which is the anchor point for the pectoralis muscles, the main flapping muscle. However, pterosaurs display other skeletal features that may have made this less problematic than a direct comparison to birds may indicate. The pterosaur group is notable for a unique bone, called the pteroid, in the forearm, which may have supported a flight structure not reproduced in other flying animals.

This suggests that the keel was as much an argument against flight as for it.


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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 8 of 11 (492222)
12-29-2008 10:57 AM


Sorry folks for my incorrect and uninformed posting. I have edited the topic slightly to more match my original intentions. More generally, I am wondering if there is any evidence from winged creatures in the fossil record that shows they could use their wings.

In 12 million years when they dig up a chicken fossil and eagle fossil, how will they know one could use its wings for all-out flight, and the other just just for slowing a fall? What is different or happens differently in winged creatures who fly that would preserve itself as evidence of their flying ability?

Thanks,
Jon

Edited by Jon, : No reason given.


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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8838
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 9 of 11 (492223)
12-29-2008 11:06 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jon
12-29-2008 10:57 AM


wikipedia article
I suggest you read over the wikipedia article as a starting point.
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onifre
Member (Idle past 1029 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 10 of 11 (492233)
12-29-2008 2:17 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
12-28-2008 11:17 PM


Re: Could They Fly?
So, it occurred to me: if chickens (and some other birds) have wings but cannot fly,

Dont know if this helps but...

As I understand it the domestication of chickens is what attributes to their current flightless abilities. One would have to know the history of the modern chicken to know that had it not be for this domestication the chicken could very will be a bird of flight.

Genetic evidence shows that the chicken is family of the junglefowl, which is of the pheasant family, which do fly.

Selection pressure could also add to the inability to fly. Species who are newly flightless may show signs of being better equipped for flight since they would be close to the seperation from flight to flightless but would still be flightless none the less. However, it has been a while since I've read up on the evolution of flight so I'm speculating.


"All great truths begin as blasphemies"

"I smoke pot. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your mouth."--Bill Hicks

"I never knew there was another option other than to question everything"--Noam Chomsky


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Stagamancer
Member (Idle past 2994 days)
Posts: 174
From: Oregon
Joined: 12-28-2008


Message 11 of 11 (492236)
12-29-2008 3:03 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jon
12-29-2008 10:57 AM


What is different or happens differently in winged creatures who fly that would preserve itself as evidence of their flying ability?

Most of the evidence for this would be determined by physics. Thanks to Newton and Bernoulli et al., we know the basic requirements for powered flight. So, if an organism exhibits the proper requirements i.e. large enough wings, proper musculature, etc. for flight, then it probably did fly. All of the modern flightless birds have evolved from birds with the ability to fly. As a result, they still have their wings, but they are reduced and/or modified. So, if you gave an animal flight expert the physical dimensions of an ostrich: the size and shape of it's wings, the density and size of the bones, etc. they would most likely accurately determine that an ostrich can not fly. Now obviously, for long extinct organisms, with only the fossil record to go from, determining flight is not always as clear cut. But, based on these parameters, one can get a good idea of whether or not an organism could fly. In a similar vein, if you gave a scientist the dimensions of an ostrich's long, dense, sturdy legs, they would probably determine that an ostrich does not do much gliding either, but gets around be walking and running, because creatures with those features usually do just that.


"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
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