Feathers of Earliest Birds Too Weak to Fly

MANCHESTER, England, May 14 (UPI) — The first species of birds likely did little more than glide because their feathers were too feeble to support long flight, British scientists said.

Fossil studies of Archaeopteryx, which lived an estimated 140 million years ago, suggest the birds might have been unable to flap their wings for flight because the shafts of their feathers were thinner than those of modern birds.

The wings of Archaeopteryx probably were too weak to do much more than let the bird glide among trees, researchers from the University of Manchester wrote in a recent issue of the journal Science.

Confuciusornis, a bird that lived about 100 million years ago, had a similar feather structure to Archaeopteryx, said Manchester researcher Robert Nudds.

”If Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis were flapping fliers, they must have had a feather structure that was fundamentally different from that of living birds,” Nudds said.

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Categorized | Birds, Other
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