Feathers are complex, branched skin appendages.
Our research on feathers has focused on understanding feather
development and the evolution of feather diversity. In 1999,
I published a developmental theory of the origin and diversification
of feathers that hypothesized a series of stages in feather
evolution based on the hierarchical process of feather growth.
In subsequent research, we have been testing the predictions
of the theory with analyses of the filamentous integumentary
structures of non-avian theropod dinosaurs from the Yixian
formation of Liaoning, China, and with experimental studies
of molecular signaling during feather development.
Other work has focused on investigating additional
consequences of how feathers grow, including computer models
of the growth of feather shape and the growth of within-feather
Current and future work will focus on experimental
developmental studies of branched feather development and
within-feather pigmentation patterning, empirical investigations
of the growth of feather shape, and the development of structural
coloration in feathers (see Physics and Evolution of Structural
Prum, R. O. 1999. Development and Evolutionary
Origin of Feathers. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular
and Developmental Evolution) 285: 291-306.
Xu, X., Zhou, Z., and Prum, R. O. 2001. Branched
integumental structures in Sinornithosaurus and the origin
of feathers. Nature 410: 200-204.
Prum, R. O. and Williamson, S. 2001. A theory
of the growth and evolution of feather shape. Journal of Experimental
Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 291: 30-57.
Prum, R. O. and Williamson, S. 2002. Reaction-diffusion
models of within-feather pigmentation patterning. Proceeding
of the Royal Society, London: Biological Sciences (B). 269:
Prum, R. O. and Brush, A. H. 2002. The evolutionary
origin and diversification of feathers. Quarterly Review of
Biology. 77: 261-295.
Harris, M. H., Fallon, J. F., and Prum, R. O.
2002. A Shh-Bmp2 Developmental Module and the Evolutionary
Origin and Diversification of Feathers. Journal of Experimental
Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution). 294: 160-176.
Prum, R. O. and Dyck, J. 2003. A hierarchical
model of plumage: modularity, development, and evolution.
Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental
Evolution). 298B: 73-90.
Harris, M. H., Williamson, S., Fallon, J. F., Meinhardt, H. and Prum, R. O. 2005. Molecular evidence for activator-inhibitor mechanism in development of embryonic feather branching. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 102: 11734-11739.
Prum, R. O. 2005. Evolution of the morphological Innovations of feathers. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution). 304B: 570-579.
Vinther, J., Briggs, D. E. G., Prum, R. O, Saranathan, V. 2008. The colour of fossil feathers. Biology Letters 4: 522-525. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0302.