What the huh?

14 March 2013

back in bad old days I would have taken the discovery of extensive hind-limb feathering in Mesozoic birds (Zheng el al. 2013 just published in Science) as an invitation to leap off into half-formed speculations about serial homology and scansoriality, or launch a never to be completed series of posts about phugoids, or try to coin some dumb, clonky neologism like “glight.”

Or at least tilt, askance (if that’s not overdoing it), at some windmill of a science writer, and flail and froth against some perceived distortion or mislocution, all pshaw and tsk and really? I mean, really? I mean. Come on. My disheveled and worn tibiotarsal feathers would have literally ruffled in a sadly unconvincing bluff.

These days I just fly over all that crap. Like glorious tropic bird, I soar far above and beyond  gliding on trade winds over the horizon until my luminous volant form becomes one with comet Pan-STARRS.

But. Let me swoop down among the motley enantiornithine fray for just one sec to say,

The 150-million-year-old Archaeopteryx from Germany, sometimes called the first bird, probably had feathers on its forelimbs. But recent fossil finds question whether it was a birdlike dinosaur rather than a dinosaurlike member of the true bird lineage. So the Chinese team wrote that, only until now, no examples of the unusual four-wing structure “have so far been reported in basal birds.”

…what the huh?

Archaeopteryx “probably had feathers on its forelimbs”?

Perhaps, “hindlimbs” is what is meant. If so this passage resolves into semi-comprehensibility. But the whole “birdlike dinosaur” vs “dinosaurlike member of the true bird lineage” circumlocution still bugs me. It underscores why the apparently irrepressible urge to draw a line in the sand with “birds” on one side and “dinosaurs” on the other is entirely misbegotten. Especially with deinonychosaurs and scansoriopterygids and Xiaotingia and even Archie herself dancing around the avialan tree like some drunken dryads at an absinthe party.

Wait. What was I saying? Never mind. Got it out of my system.

Aight, dudes, imma go back to high-fiving Beebe in my celestial pleasure dome. Smell you later.

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