Materials

■ 1 quill feather (large flight feather from wing or tail)

■ 1 contour feather

■ unlined paper

■ prepared slide of a contour feather

■ compound light microscope

■ prepared slide of a down feather

Background

1. List several distinguishing characteristics of birds.

2. How do birds differ from other vertebrates?

3. What are the functions of feathers?

Procedure

1. In your lab report, make a table like the one on the next page. Record your observations of each kind of feather in your data table.

2. Examine a quill feather. Hold the base of the central shaft with one hand, and gently bend the tip of the feather with your other hand. Be careful not to break the feather. Next, hold the shaft, and wave the feather in the air. Record your observations concerning the structure of the quill feather. Relate your observations to the feather's possible function. Describe the function of the feather under "Function of feather" in your data table.

Quill feather, a large flight feather

3. Examine the vane of the feather. Does the vane appear to be a solid structure? Include a description of the quill feather's vane structure under "Structure of feather" in your data table.

4. Make a drawing of the quill feather. Label the shaft, vanes, and barbs. Compare your feather with the figure above.

5. Examine a contour feather. Make a sketch of the contour feather in your data table. Label the shaft, vanes, and barbs on your sketch. Does the feather resemble the one in the figure on the next page?

6. Describe the structure of the contour feather under "Structure of feather" in your data table.

7. Examine a prepared slide of a contour feather under low power. Note the smaller barbs, called barbules, extending from each of the barbs.

8. How might you observe the region between the barbs? Locate the tiny hooks at the end of each bar-bule. Note the arrangement of the hooks on adjacent barbs. Why do you think the hooks are so small? Make a separate, labeled drawing of the hooks in your lab report.

9. Examine the down feather, and sketch it in your data table. How does your down feather compare with the figure on the next page?

10. Describe the structure of the down feather in your data table. Do you notice a difference in the structure of the contour and down feathers?

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