Feather structure in flightless birds and its bearing on the question of the origin of feathers
Article first published online: 24 MAR 2009
Journal of Zoology
Volume 218, Issue 4, pages 537–547, August 1989
How to Cite
MCGOWAN, C. (1989), Feather structure in flightless birds and its bearing on the question of the origin of feathers. Journal of Zoology, 218: 537–547. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1989.tb04997.x
- Issue published online: 24 MAR 2009
- Article first published online: 24 MAR 2009
- Accepted 11 October 1988
Of several hypotheses proposed for the origin of feathers two predominate: feathers evolved for flight, or for thermal insulation. The argument is sometimes made that since wing feathers degenerate with flightlessness, their primary function is aerodynamic, supporting the flight hypothesis. Examination of the primary feathers of flightless carinates reveals little evidence of degeneration. Notwithstanding the impropriety of deducing original from present-day functions, feather structure in flightless carinates does not support one evolutionary hypothesis over any other.
Ratites have markedly different primary feathers from flightless carinates and this might be attributable to the longer time since the loss of flight.