Sunday, July 22, 2018
News Roundup

This feathery dinosaur probably flew, but not like any bird you know

In 1861, German paleontologist Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer wrote a short paper about a fossil so unusual he first thought it was a fake. What appeared to be a bird feather was pressed into 150-million-year-old limestone. Von Meyer labeled it Archaeopteryx, meaning old wing, and a full skeleton was found shortly thereafter.

The bones, discovered two years after Charles Darwin published his "On the Origin of Species," revealed a path to modern birds from their prehistoric ancestors. This discovery was a hint of a revelation to come much later: Birds are living dinosaurs.

During the next 150-plus years, paleontologists discovered 10 more Archaeopteryx skeletons. A picture of the creature emerged, of a dinosaur the size of a crow, weighing little more than a pound and covered in plumage. But feathers, as the penguin and ostrich know, do not necessarily mean flight.

A new report in Nature Communications suggests that Archaeopteryx probably flapped through the air. The dinosaur did so unlike any bird flying today. Archaeopteryx used more shoulder action, the authors of the new report say: Imagine something like a butterfly stroke, according to Dennis Voeten, a researcher at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France and the study’s lead author.

Read More: Dade City museum lands ‘Hometown Teams’ exhibit from the Smithsonian

Not everything that looks like a bird was a bird, especially in the Jurassic period. Recent discoveries have pushed Archaeopteryx away from its perch as a transitional dinosaur-to-bird fossil - there is now a crowd of finely feathered dinosaurs. Archaeopteryx was probably not, Voeten said, a direct tie to sparrows and ostriches but a member of an offshoot lineage.

As scientists have probed Archaeopteryx’s family tree, they also questioned its ability to fly. In the second half of the last century, two positions emerged. One camp said, yes, Archaeopteryx flapped its way off the ground. The other camp said, no, Archaeopteryx scrabbled up trees using its clawed wings, then let go and sailed to the ground like a sugar glider. And a few paleontologists suggested other ideas: Perhaps Archaeopteryx was in the process of losing its flight ability, not gaining it.

In the new study, Voeten and his colleagues probed Archaeopteryx fossils using a synchrotron - a powerful source of radiation. The concept is similar to an X-ray, but your dentist’s X-ray machine would fail to distinguish fossilized skeletons from the background rock. A synchrotron beam is much more sensitive.

Bones, Voeten pointed out, record our daily stress. "The right upper arm bone of a professional tennis player is thicker than the left upper arm bone," he said. Likewise, the stress of flying reshapes the wing bones in modern birds. He decided to look for similar evidence in Archaeopteryx.

The study authors examined cross-sections of the Archaeopteryx bones and compared these structures to bones in flying birds, flightless birds, other dinosaurs and modern crocodilians. The Archaeopteryx bone characteristics closely resembled what Voeten called "burst fliers." These are birds like pheasants, roadrunners and turkeys - animals comfortable on the ground but capable of taking flight with a snap of the wings. The study moves Archaeopteryx from a potential flying animal to a probable one, he concluded.

Still, it did not fly like a pheasant. "The modern bird has a very nifty pulley system," Voeten said. The muscle groups that move bird wings up and down are attached at the sternum, like the wheel of a pulley. But if you flap your arms to mimic a bird, you use muscles that are anchored at the chest and shoulders. Archaeopteryx wings were attached like our arms, with no chest pulley. "We’re sure that it’s incapable of flying like a modern bird does," he said.

Voeten expects that the new study will attract Archaeopteryx flight critics and says, "I warmly welcome them." He is not beholden to the idea Archaeopteryx could fly, he said. "This is a very famous, notorious debate that I am entering in as a new guy."

Comments
Rays journal: New faces, same old loss

Rays journal: New faces, same old loss

ST. PETERSBURG — To get a sense of how things are going for the Rays right now, consider that opening day starter Chris Archer was wearing a promotional DJ Kitty head in the dugout and veteran OF Carlos Gomez was playing second base during Satu...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Kevin Kiermaier frustrated as injuries continue

Kevin Kiermaier frustrated as injuries continue

ST. PETERSBURG — This season has been quite a pain for Rays centerfielder and centerpiece Kevin Kiermaier.A cold bat, a nagging illness, a searing foul ball we'll come back to shortly and a torn thumb ligament that required surgery, all in the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rowdies gain needed victory

Rowdies gain needed victory

ST. PETERSBURG — Georgi Hristov, the Rowdies' all-time goals leader, extended that mark with his 59th and Junior Flemmings had a goal and two assists to lead a revamped lineup in Saturday's 3-1 win over Indy Eleven at Al Lang Stadium in front o...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Marlins game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Marlins game

Joey Wendle continues to impress, playing anywhere asked and hitting everywhere. Friday he joined the play-of-the-year race with an amazing glove flip to first. Saturday he was the first Ray with a decent swing off Pablo Lopez, homering in the fourth...
Published: 07/21/18
Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

WASHINGTON — There was a lot of talk specific to the Rays at the All-Star Game last week, from commissioner Rob Manfred's strong endorsement of the Ybor stadium plan to Wilson Ramos' rousing ovation from the Washington fans to Blake Snell's imp...
Published: 07/21/18
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome did not make the cut in her first PGA Tour event, but she did improve by seven shots in her second round.Lincicome shot 1-under 71 on Saturday at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., after having to wait an e...
Published: 07/21/18
Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

ST. PETERSBURG – To get a sense of how shorthanded the Rays were by the final innings of Saturday night's game, all you had to do was look at the field and see Carlos Gomez playing second base.It was that kind of night for the Rays, who lost an...
Published: 07/21/18
Pasco Sheriff’s Office releases names of two killed in apparent murder-suicide Saturday

Pasco Sheriff’s Office releases names of two killed in apparent murder-suicide Saturday

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of two people killed in an apparent murder-suicide Saturday.At about 1 p.m. Saturday, Alisa Medovich, 23, of Holiday, was shot and killed by Mario Medina, 43, of New Port Richey, who then shot ...
Published: 07/21/18
Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Turns out Donald Trump wasn't the only person that Bucs receiver Mike Evans reached out to on Twitter on Saturday.The Bucs receiver fired back at the president after a tweet suggesting that NFL players who protest during the national anthem should be...
Published: 07/21/18
Tampa police seek driver in fatal Saturday morning hit and run

Tampa police seek driver in fatal Saturday morning hit and run

Tampa police are looking for a motorist who they say killed a man in an early Saturday morning hit and run.About 2 a.m. Saturday, a 38-year-old man was hit by a car travelling east on the 3600 block of E Columbus Dr. in Tampa, according to a Tampa Po...
Published: 07/21/18