Integumentary variation

IMGP3940Well the title is at least a bit of a give away, but those interested in the covering of dinosaurs may find this close-up interesting. If anyone ever asks you to name an animal where two kinds of integument interlace and alternate with each other, you are likely to be stuck for an answer. Sure birds have scales and feathers and ‘bald’ patches, but not together (except perhaps at the transition point). However it should be quite clear that here there really are two very different structures, with longer thinner filaments sticking out from between the shorter and fluffier structures. If you want to guess what this is, the answer lies below the fold where a little more discussion is available.


Yes this was taken from the back of a baby ostrich as you can see from this collection of them here (from the Seoul zoo). It’s easy to just think that ‘birds have feathers’ but even if you do remember than of course the down of young chicks is quite different from the structure of pennaceous adult-style feathers, it can be easy to put them in the mind’s eye as a dichotomy with them having one feather type or the other (with a brief period of both during moulting). The truth of course is rather different and while it’s easy to think of a couple of examples of birds that have different feather types on them (such as the little plumes on the crown of a peacock say) these are still typically present in small discreet zones. It’s hard to think offhand of something where the two types are genuinely intermingled as they are here, so the next time someone asks you this question (which will be never) you can now instantly name baby ostriches as an example. That’ll come in useful as a life skill, I’m sure.

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4 Responses to “Integumentary variation”

  1. 1 Tengu 07/09/2009 at 1:57 pm

    Barn owl feet appear to have intermixed scales and feathers:

    The feet of a dead barn Owl

  2. 3 Allen Hazen 14/09/2009 at 1:46 pm

    Mammalian, but don’t porcupines have quills mixed in among ordinary hairs?

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