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Abstract

The discovery that structurally unique “filamentous integumentary appendages” are associated with several different non-avian dinosaurs continues to stimulate the development of models to explain the evolutionary origin of feathers. Taking the phylogenetic relationships of the non-avian dinosaurs into consideration, some models propose that the “filamentous integumentary appendages” represent intermediate stages in the sequential evolution of feathers. Here we present observations on a unique integumentary structure, the bristle of the wild turkey beard, and suggest that this non-feather appendage provides another explanation for some of the “filamentous integumentary appendages.” Unlike feathers, beard bristles grow continuously from finger-like outgrows of the integument lacking follicles. We find that these beard bristles, which show simple branching, are hollow, distally, and express the feather-type β keratins. The significance of these observations to explanations for the evolution of archosaurian integumentary appendages is discussed. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 297B: 27–34, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.