The Early Origin of Feathers.

  title={The Early Origin of Feathers.},
  author={Michael J. Benton and Danielle Dhouailly and Baoyu Jiang and Maria E. McNamara},
  journal={Trends in ecology \& evolution},

Figures from this paper

Silicification of feathers in a modern hot spring in New Zealand

Fossil feathers have greatly improved our understanding of the evolutionary transition from non-avian dinosaurs to birds and the evolution of feathers, and may be the only evidence for their source

Pterosaur melanosomes support signalling functions for early feathers

The presence of diverse melanosome geometries in the skin and simple and branched feathers of a tapejarid pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous found in Brazil indicate that manipulation of feather colour—and thus functions of feathers in visual communication—has deep evolutionary origins.

Down feather morphology reflects adaptation to habitat and thermal conditions across the avian phylogeny

It is shown that habitat has a very strong and clearly defined effect on down feather morphology, and characters of convergent evolution in the avian plumage and mammalian fur are revealed, that match the varying needs of insulation in terrestrial and aquatic modes of life.

Cretaceous amniote integuments recorded through a taphonomic process unique to resins

Two Spanish Cretaceous amber pieces that are of taphonomic importance are described, one bearing avian dinosaur feather remains and the other, mammalian hair, which were recorded through a rare biostratinomic process called “pull off vestiture” different from the typical resin entrapment and embedding of organisms and biological remains, and unique to resins.

Epidermal complexity in the theropod dinosaur Juravenator from the Upper Jurassic of Germany

Epidermal scales among modern reptiles are morphologically diverse and serve a variety of functions ranging from moisture balance to chemoreception. Despite being predominantly squamous‐skinned

Three-dimensionally preserved ‘Stage IIIb’ fossil down feather supports developmental modularity in feather evolution

The topology of this down feather, consistent with specific patterns of modular protein-protein signalling already observed, provides the first definitive evidence that such signalling was responsible for the evolution of a diverse inventory of feather morphologies in non-avialan dinosaurs and early birds since the middle Jurassic.

Estimating the distribution of carotenoid coloration in skin and integumentary structures of birds and extinct dinosaurs

Support is found that expression of carotenoid‐consistent color in nonplumage integument structures might evolve in a correlated manner and feathers are rarely the only region of expression.

Environmental Factors Affecting Feather Taphonomy

Simple Summary This study seeks to test the effect of burial/exposure, sediment type, the addition of feather-degrading microbes, and the addition of minerals on feather preservation, and for the

Morphology and distribution of scales, dermal ossifications, and other non‐feather integumentary structures in non‐avialan theropod dinosaurs

The morphology and distribution of non-feathered integumentary structures in non-avialan theropods, covering squamous skin and naked skin as well as dermal ossifications are reviewed.



The molecular evolution of feathers with direct evidence from fossils

It is confirmed here that feathers were modified at both molecular and morphological levels to obtain the biomechanical properties for flight during the dinosaur–bird transition, and it is shown that the patterns and timing of adaptive change at the molecular level can be directly addressed in exceptionally preserved fossils in deep time.

Exceptional dinosaur fossils show ontogenetic development of early feathers

An early-juvenile specimen and a late- juvenile specimen, both referable to the oviraptorosaur Similicaudipteryx, recovered from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of western Liaoning, China are described, suggesting that early feathers were developmentally more diverse than modern ones and that some developmental features have been lost in feather evolution.

A Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia with both feathers and scales

A seemingly feathery nontheropod dinosaur from the Jurassic of Siberia shows that feathers were not unique to the ancestors of birds and may even have been quite widespread, and feathers may thus have been present in the earliest dinosaurs.

Evolution of dinosaur epidermal structures

Using a comprehensive database of dinosaur skin traces, maximum-likelihood methods are applied to reconstruct the phylogenetic distribution of epidermal structures and interpret their evolutionary history.

The morphogenesis of feathers

The replication-competent avian sarcoma retrovirus is used to deliver exogenous genes to regenerating flight feather follicles of chickens, and it is shown that the antagonistic balance between noggin and bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4) has a critical role in feather branching.

Fossilized skin reveals coevolution with feathers and metabolism in feathered dinosaurs and early birds

Examination of fossil skin from feathered dinosaurs and ancient birds from the Cretaceous and show the early acquisition of many skin attributes seen in modern species, confirming that basal birds and non-avian dinosaurs shed small epidermal flakes as in modern mammals and birds, but structural differences imply that these Cretsaceous taxa had lower body heat production than modern birds.

New specimen of Archaeopteryx provides insights into the evolution of pennaceous feathers

An analysis of the phylogenetic distribution of pennaceous feathers on the tail, hindlimb and arms of advanced maniraptorans and basal avialans strongly indicates that these structures evolved in a functional context other than flight, most probably in relation to display, as suggested by some previous studies.

Fossil Evidence for Evolution of the Shape and Color of Penguin Feathers

The fossil reveals that key feathering features, including undifferentiated primary wing feathers and broad body contour feather shafts, evolved early in the penguin lineage, and analyses of fossilized color-imparting melanosomes reveal that their dimensions were similar to those of non-penguin avian taxa and that the feathering may have been predominantly gray-brown.

Reconstruction of Microraptor and the Evolution of Iridescent Plumage

This finding and estimation of Microraptor feathering consistent with an ornamental function for the tail suggest a centrality for signaling in early evolution of plumage and feather color.

Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds

It is reported that melanosomes (colour-bearing organelles) are not only preserved in the pennaceous feathers of early birds, but also in an identical manner in integumentary filaments of non-avian dinosaurs, thus refuting recent claims that the filaments are partially decayed dermal collagen fibres.