Read at Ars Technica
Scientists in South Korea built a robotic dinosaur and used it to startle grasshoppers to learn more about why dinosaurs evolved feathers, according to a recent paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. The results suggest that certain dinosaurs may have employed a hunting strategy in which they flapped their proto-wings to flush out prey, and this behavior may have led to the evolution of larger and stiffer feathers.
Various types of dino-feathers have been found in the fossil record over the last 30 years, such as so-called pennaceous feathers (present in most modern birds). These were found on distal forelimbs of certain species like Caudipteryx, serving as proto-wings that were too small to use for flight, as well as around the tip of the tail as plumage. Paleontologists remain unsure of the function of pennaceous feathers-what use could there be for half a wing? A broad range of hypotheses have been proposed: foraging or hunting, pouncing or immobilizing prey, brooding, gliding, or wing-assisted incline running, among others.
Co-author Jinseok Park of Seoul National University in South Korea and colleagues thought the pennaceous feathers might have been used to flush out potential prey from hiding places so they could be more easily caught. It's a strategy employed by certain modern bird species, like roadrunners, and typically involves a visual display of the plumage on wings and tails.
There is evidence...