Sequential Molt in a Feathered Dinosaur and Implications for Early Paravian Ecology and Locomotion

Yosef Kiat, Amir Balaban, Nir Sapir, Jingmai Kathleen O'Connor, Min Wang, Xing Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Feather molt is an important life-history process in birds, but little is known about its evolutionary history. Here, we report on the first fossilized evidence of sequential wing feather molt, a common strategy among extant birds, identified in the Early Cretaceous four-winged dromaeosaurid Microraptor. Analysis of wing feather molt patterns and ecological properties in extant birds imply that Microraptor maintained its flight ability throughout the entire annual cycle, including the molt period. Therefore, we conclude that flight was essential for either its daily foraging or escaping from predators. Our findings propose that the development of sequential molt is the outcome of evolutionary forces to maintain flight capability throughout the entire annual cycle in both extant birds and non-avialan paravian dinosaurs from 120 mya. Video Abstract: [Figure presented] Kiat et al. report the first fossilized evidence of sequential wing feather molt, which was identified in the Early Cretaceous four-winged dromaeosaurid Microraptor. The study concludes that the development of sequential molt is the outcome of evolutionary forces to maintain flight capability throughout the entire annual cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3633-3638.e2
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume30
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - 21 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank A. Slavenko for his help with phylogenetic analysis and S. Brusatte and two other anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the improvement of this study. Thanks to G. Gartner, T. Salmond, S.P. d’Entremont, and L. Francey, who contributed the photos used in Figure 2 . This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41688103 ). We thank the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number: 41688103 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.

Keywords

  • Microraptor
  • ancestral trait reconstruction analysis
  • birds
  • flight ability
  • flightlessness
  • molt sequence
  • ornithology
  • paleontology
  • simultaneous molt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)

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