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Did prehistoric birds fly with four wings ?

Posted on Friday, 15 March, 2013 | Comment icon 15 comments | News tip by: Still Waters

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some of the earliest birds may have taken to the skies using a set of four wings instead of two.

Birds started to appear around 150 million years ago and were descended from therapods, a group of dinosaurs that included Tyrannosaurus Rex. It isn't clear exactly how and why the ability to fly appeared however it is generally thought that the first wings would have been used for gliding between the trees before they developed full flying capabilities.

One major difference in some of the earlier bird species was that, based on fossil evidence, these earlier fliers had large feathers on both their fore and hind limbs suggesting that they flew using two sets of wings. Over the next few million years however these additional wings would have slowly been lost, eventually leaving just the one set that we see in modern birds today.

"Roughly 150 million years ago, birds began to evolve."

  View: Full article |  Source: Smithsonian Magazine

  Discuss: View comments (15)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Lava_Lady on 15 March, 2013, 17:48
Yeah, unlike religion which is backed up by hard evidence... This 4 wing theory does not make a lot of sense. The large feathers on the back legs were probably just that, large feathers. May have aided in gliding.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Andromedan Starseed 333 on 15 March, 2013, 20:23
interesting its more than possible and how long ago did they lose the other two set of wings?
Comment icon #8 Posted by highdesert50 on 18 March, 2013, 11:13
There is certainly less energy expelled in walking than in flying. So, using that argument, and the notion that these feathered legs would have inhibited movement, why would feathered flying legs ever emerged as an evolved trait?
Comment icon #9 Posted by Abramelin on 19 March, 2013, 8:47
They never did lose the other set of wings: it were -and still are- also legs. .
Comment icon #10 Posted by Abramelin on 19 March, 2013, 8:51
The evolution theory is most probably correct, but your understanding of it is obviously not.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Atentutankh-pasheri on 19 March, 2013, 16:38
The feathers would have evolved before flight, for instance we now know velociraptor had feathers on parts of it's body, forearms, head and arms I think. Probably for display, but I think also for warmth. On the smaller dinosaurs these feathers were very small and seem to act as down for insulation. I presume that it is no longer disputed that dinosaurs were warm blooded, or at least the later manifestations of theropods. I can see how the "down" on small tree climbing theropods would have evolved into proper flight feathers, and cumbersome feathers on the legs gradually becomi... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by shrooma on 21 March, 2013, 5:39
. I was kinda hoping for jetpacks & hovercars instead..... :-)
Comment icon #13 Posted by Frank Merton on 21 March, 2013, 5:53
That would be inheritence of acquired characteristics. Chop off the puppy's tail and it does not alter the length of its decendents' tails. I would say we should prefer the phrase, "evolutionary theory," representing the body of understanding science has about evolution. The other wording is obsolete and misleading. Now if there were some reason puppies born with short tails survive and reproduce better than those with longer tails, then nature would select in favor of those with shorter tails and ultimately the longer tails would disappear.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Geldoblam on 30 March, 2013, 10:41
If they flew with four wings why lose them then?

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