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Birds of Different Feathers Evolve Together

Are pigeons like parrots?  Are hummingbirds like hawks?  And are falcons unlike eagles?  Scientists are all a-flutter after results of a massive genetic comparison of birds has put some members in unlikely pigeonholes.  “The largest ever study of bird genetics has not only shaken up but completely redrawn the avian evolutionary tree,” said Science Daily.  […]

An Evaluation of Evolution as an Explanatory Device

It is very common for scientists to claim this or that phenomenon “evolved.”  How well do such statements qualify as scientific explanations?  How much scientific heavy lifting is done by merely stating that things are the way they are because they evolved that way?  The following recent examples can be considered representative of the evolutionary […]

Animals Outsmart Scientists

In science, long-standing beliefs are often challenged by new evidence.  Several recent findings not only show animals to be more remarkable than thought, they pose some new questions for evolutionists. Slothlessness:  Sleeping almost all day, the sloth is the epitome of laziness in the animal kingdom.  Or is it?  The BBC News now tells us […]

Itemized Deductions

Here are some free deductions to take the edge off Income Tax Day…. as long as one deduces correctly. Israel is picking a national bird.  So what feathered friend will represent the Holy Land?  “The nine finalists include the hoopoe, the owl, the spur-winged plover, and the griffin vulture, but no doves.”  Source: Science, Random […]

Peacocks Don’t Dress for Success

The male peacock’s fancy feather show: an icon of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, right?  Then why did Japanese scientists tell Discovery News that the females pay them little attention?     The article claims that the male’s appearance fails to interest, much less excite, the females, who seem to pay more attention to his […]

Darwin for the Birds

Here’s a flock of bird stories that have Charles Darwin on stage or in the wings, so to speak. Was Darwin wrong?  Yes!  Contra National Geographic (10/24/2004), the science news outlets are all saying today that Darwin was wrong – but only about the origin of chickens (see EurekAlert #1, EurekAlert #2 and Science Daily).  […]

Migrating Birds Measure Longitude

Migrating birds are able to get back on course, even when released 1000 km east of their normal migration path.  This shows that long-distance migrating birds are capable of true bicoordinate navigation: the ability to make course corrections both in latitude and longitude.  The results of experiments, published in Current Biology,1 left the researchers baffled: […]

Did Birds Evolve Aeronautical Engineering?

Two news stories on birds may not seem to flock together.  One is about their supreme aeronautical engineering.  The other ponders when they evolved.     A story on EurekAlert and Science Daily describes how engineers are eyeing birds, bats and insects for design ideas.  The appeal is clear from the following comparisons: A Blackbird […]

Do Chicks Tell Dinosaur Tales?

For years, evolutionary biologists have battled over the origin of flight.  Did dinosaurs run along the ground and take off, or did they jump from trees?  The first idea is called the cursorial hypothesis; the latter, the arboreal hypothesis.  In 2003, Ken Dial [U Montana] had an idea: maybe watching partridge chicks could inform the […]

Dinosaur Fossil Shows Exquisite Skin Detail

More imaginary feathers on a dinosaur have been discovered.  A BBC News article shows a cartoon of a dinosaur with feathers on its arms.  This is strange, because the paper it refers to makes no claim about feathers – only that certain structures had been interpreted as feathers by some.     The original paper […]

Birdsong Olympic Training

The singing of a bird is a complex skill that takes rigorous training like that of a top athlete or musician.  Young male birds learn by imitation from their fathers, then hone their skill over months, till their song becomes crystallized in adulthood.  A paper in Nature by two scientists at UC San Francisco reported […]

Winged Migration Grows Up

Scientists used to rely on metal bands on birds’ legs to find out how they got from here to there.  Now, they can glue tiny radio transmitters to their shoulders and follow them in real time.  What happened when Princeton scientists hijacked 30 white-crowned sparrows and took them from Seattle to New Jersey?  Age has […]

Crow Cam Lets Scientists See Intelligence at Work

Ever want to fly like a bird?  Now you can do the next best thing: get a tail-feather view of what it is like to fly from branch to branch.  University of Oxford scientists attached a small video camera to the underside of a New Caledonian Crow to watch it in the wild, reported PhysOrg.  […]

Was Velociraptor a Dragon?

As if Velociraptor, the terror of Jurassic Park, was not scary enough, some scientists are now saying it was feathered.  (This, of course, does not imply it could fly after its human prey like some movie dragon.)  The latest claim in Science is based on the apparent presence of “quill knobs” on the radius bone […]

New World Record for Winged Migration

The BBC News reports that a female bar-tailed godwit flew 11,500km (almost 7200 mi) nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand.  The journey took about a week.  Observers at Massey University used electronic tags to catalog the birds’ flight.     This distance is nearly double what ornithologists used to consider an “extremely long” flight.  This […]
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