Dinosaur protofeathers: pushing back the origin of feathers into the Middle Triassic?
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Reports of primordial feathers (protofeathers) in dinosaurs have received widespread interest. Recently, it was proposed that a novel protofeather in the theropod dinosaur Beipiaosaurus completes the transitional series in the evolution of the feather and provides the first evidence of filamentous feathers as display in nonavian theropods. A more far-reaching evolutionary ramification is the claim that these structures push the origin of monofilamentous integumentary structures into the Middle Triassic or earlier. I discuss problems with the analyses within the broader context of studies concerning the hypothesis of protofeathers, and show that affinity between the integumentary structures in Beipiaosaurus and feathers is improbable. The scientific methodology is questioned by its failure to make phenomena perceivable by objective means, by questionable rationalizations in critical issues, and by lack of consideration of exceptions to the postulated thesis. The notion that primordial feathers occurred in a clade more inclusive than the Coelurosauria and that it is supported by the presence of integumental structures in Psittacosaurus is analyzed and rejected.
KeywordsBeipiaosaurus Protofeathers Elliptical cross-sections Display feathers Psittacosaurus
This paper commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.
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