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Mammalian Feathers

December 9, 2014

You know, for the immense list of biological restraints and implausibilities that exist when taking into consideration speculative evolution/biology projects, many people constantly harp on one that is a perfectly plausible. People, not just here but in many places, seem to have this delusion that mammals or any non-avian animals couldn’t potentially evolve feather-like integrument because “they’re not birds”.

Suffice to say, it’s very ridiculous:

– Both fur and feathers are made of keratin, one of the most plastic biological substances there is. Just within mammals, keratinous structures have evolved from baseline hair into vibrissae, numerous different types of structurally different quills (seriously, the quills of Old World porcupines, New World porcupines, hedgehogs and echdinas are almost as different between themselves as they are from feathers), large scales (pangolins), small scales (the reticulae within mammal foot pads), nails (primate nails are hair-derived structures, unlike true claws), horns, bristles and who knows what else;

– Feathers themselves evolved from hair-like integrument in archosaurs, probably at it’s most basic akin to pterosaur pycnofibrils;

– A feather at its most basic is simply a branched fillament, with a central vane. Mammals already have branched hairs, so developing a central vane would simply be the next step.

I wouldn’t make a post about this if it wasn’t a pretty damn annoying perception. Between viviparous and quadrupedal birds, terrestrial squids, fire-resistent scaled rodents, this is the one thing that’s so mind breakingly impossible? WTF!?

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