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Publication - Professor Mike Benton

    The Early Origin of Feathers


    Benton, M, Dhouailly, D, Jiang, B & McNamara, M, 2019, ‘The Early Origin of Feathers’. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, vol 34., pp. 856-869


    Feathers have long been regarded as the innovation that drove the success of birds. However, feathers have been reported from close dinosaurian relatives of birds, and now from ornithischian dinosaurs and pterosaurs, the cousins of dinosaurs. Incomplete preservation makes these reports controversial. If true, these findings shift the origin of feathers back 80 million years before the origin of birds. Gene regulatory networks show the deep homology of scales, feathers, and hairs. Hair and feathers likely evolved in the Early Triassic ancestors of mammals and birds, at a time when synapsids and archosaurs show independent evidence of higher metabolic rates (erect gait and endothermy), as part of a major resetting of terrestrial ecosystems following the devastating end-Permian mass extinction.

    Full details in the University publications repository