Reassessment of the wing feathers of Archaeopteryx lithographica suggests no robust evidence for the presence of elongated dorsal wing coverts

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    Abstract

    Recently it was proposed that the primary feathers of Archaeopteryx lithographica (HMN1880) were overlaid by long covert feathers, and that a multilayered feathered wing was a feature of early fossils with feathered forelimbs. The proposed long covert feathers of Archaeopteryx were previously interpreted as dorsally displaced remiges or a second set of impressions made by the wing. The following study shows that the qualitative arguments forwarded in support of the elongated covert hypothesis are neither robust nor supported quantitatively. The idea that the extant bird wing with its single layer of overlapping primaries evolved from an earlier multilayered heavily coveted feathered forelimb as seen in Anchiornis huxleyi is reasonable. At this juncture, however, it is premature to conclude unequivocally that the wing of Archaeopteryx consisted of primary feathers overlaid with elongated coverts. © 2014 Robert L. Nudds.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere93963
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume9
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2014

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