Meeting Abstract

P1.103  Wednesday, Jan. 4  A revised model of feather shape development FEO, Teresa J*; PRUM, Richard O; Yale University; Yale University

Feathers come in a wide range of shape and size ranging from a few millimeters to over a meter. This diversity of form allows birds to perform an equally diverse set of functions important in all major aspects of avian biology. However, due to the branched nature of a feather, it is not readily obvious how structural changes in feathers create the diversity of observed shapes. Previous studies concerning feather shapes have relied on a morphogenic model to describe the differences between shapes, but the efficacy of this model was never tested using real feathers. Using the concepts of theoretical morphology and our current understanding of feather development, we have constructed a revised morphogenic model to describe the development of feather shape. This model simulates the growth of a feather using 7 developmental parameters such as growth rate and branch angle. Next, we studied real feathers during their development from a variety of species. With these feathers we were able to directly measure values for the developmental parameters and test the efficacy of the revised model in predicting the resulting feather shape. A realistic model of feather morpogenesis allows for variation in feathers shapes to be described in terms of differences in the underlying developmental process. Our model will be a valuable tool for understanding the evolution and development of feather diversity.