It’s about time that we have a short chat on feathers. They are very complex, beautiful structures, and you could probably write entire books about them, but we’ll just cover a couple of things I didn’t know about until I researched it (Pretty cool when something so ordinary becomes amazing, just by taking a closer look).
Feathers are keratinous (like our hair or fingernails) structures that grow from the skin, and there are many different forms that serve many different functions. Here’s a video where we can see the basic structure of a feather quite nicely. 🙂
Remember our emu friend a while back? Here’s a closer look at its feathers…
These feathers are like the peacock feather. The shaft, or rachis, branches off into many barbules, but those barbules don’t have the little hooks that ziplock together. Since Emu’s don’t fly or swim much, there’s no need for the streamlined contour feathers flying birds have.
Emus have no problem with staying dry in the rain, because just like any other bird, they spend a good part of their day combing their beaks through their feathers and coating them with oil from a gland near the base of their tails.
Here’s another video, this one about how varied feather shapes can be, and what they can be useful for. It focuses on birds of paradise and their crazy display plumage, but try to think about what it means for other feathered, flightless animals (like feathered dinos), and how they might use feathers. 🙂
Next week, we’ll finally get to see the Art & Science of little Terry. Keeping this post in mind will help keep that one short, because flying reptiles like Terry are rumored to have a fluffy coat of feathers… 😉
Quick Question: What was your favorite out of the wacky feathers displayed by the birds of paradise? Do you think feathered dinosaurs could’ve had similarly weird and wonderful feathers? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments! 😀