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Re: Thank you! Now for the next step of proving its possibility.

1. That is what research is being conducted on. There probably very valuable data in reptiles which have hairs (there are a few). But the fact is he presented a perfectly plausible hypothesis.

2. He did explain how they were favored by natural selection. It was its value as insulation, remember? He explained it rather well.

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Replying to:

Thank you for the overview of what the morphological process of developing feathers might look like.

Now, please describe:

1. The step-by-step genetic process for which mutations began to evolve barbules. (The first three hypothetical mutations are sufficient.)

2. How and why each mutations would be preserved by natural selection.

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Replying to:

(Cut and paste of)Paul Keck's recounting of How the interlocking mechanism on feathers probably developed (Not how they DID develop, just how they CAN develop):

In past times, feathers were probably first used as insulation, much like hair in mammals, and were probably hair-shaped, as some of types of feathers still are. At some point, some of the proto-birds developed branching projections from the early feathers. These were better at insulating, and so natural selection favored those animals that possessed them.
The next step was probably selection for barbules which curled at the ends, hooking the barbules into the adjacent ones and thus making a better wind-shedding surface, like a windbreaker. (The underfeathers would make better insulators by staying fluffy and unhooked, so the downy type of feather would be retained.) At this point the barbules were probably still pretty much round in cross-section, with no grooves. Since the limited interlocking mechanism was an improvement over non-interlocked feathers, there would be a competitive advantage to having the hooks.

So, now we have hamuli hooked around barbule "petioles". Now go back to one of Darwin's assumptions - variation. Some of these proto-birds had "petioles" slightly oval, or squarish, or crescent-shaped, as opposed to round. Please stress the "slightly" there! Now, one of these shapes was better than the others at holding the interlocking mechanism together (another idea of Darwin's). So, that proto-bird's offspring would survive better than offspring of the others, and so eventually replace them.

Fast forward a couple of hundred million years of the same variation, mutation, and selection, and you end up with modern bird feathers. Simple, no? Just time-consuming. The groove and hook did not evolve separately, as has been contended, but one in response to the other. The hooks were not useless without the grooves, they just work better with the grooves. You find this same pattern all through the living world. Eyes are another example.

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