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Are Birds A Type of Dinosaur? Is It Controversial?

Jul. 09, 2022

There is no longer any doubt that birds are a species of dinosaur. Strong evidence comes not only from fossilized bones and the similarities found in them, but also from fossilized soft tissues - especially feathers. Many dinosaurs had not only some sort of body covering, but also distinctive bird-like feathers.

For decades, paleontologists have found that the only fossil link between birds and dinosaurs is the primitive bird, a hybrid creature with feathered wings but dinosaur teeth and a long bony tail. These animals appear to have acquired their bird-like features - feathers, wings and flight - in just 10 million years, a split second of evolutionary time. The primitive birds appear to have had exactly the characteristics of modern birds.




Origin of birds

Birds belong to the group of dinosaurs of the suborder Theropoda, which includes Tyrannosaurus rex. All theropods were bipedal, and some of them had more bird-like features than others. The Archaeopteryx, discovered in 1861, was for a long time the only true bird-like dinosaur - it came from the late Jurassic period (150 million years ago). Other animals closely related to birds, such as Velociraptor, probably came from the Late Cretaceous (1 to 66 million years ago), so they also had a lot of time to evolve independently. In the Late Jurassic, we begin to find really interesting, unique, bird-like dinosaurs - especially recent fossils from China preserved in the fine-grained sediments of the lake bed.


Warm-blooded animals

For the closest thing to bird-like dinosaurs - or indeed dinosaurs in general - we have plenty of evidence that they were warm-blooded and didn't actually stick a thermometer in one. Growth rates and insulation are conclusive evidence. They grew fast - we know that from cutting bones - faster than reptiles, but not as fast as modern birds or mammals. For theropods where we can see soft tissue, we can see insulating feathers. All dinosaurs were on their way to being warm-blooded, with faster metabolisms and higher body temperatures after the origin of birds.



The Cretaceous extinction

After a reign of more than 140 million years, the reign of the dinosaurs came to an abrupt end when a huge asteroid impact and massive volcanic eruptions caused catastrophic changes to the environment. Most of the dinosaurs became extinct. Only birds remained.

Over the next 66 million years, birds evolved in a variety of ways, which allowed them to survive in many different habitats. Today there are at least 11,000 species of birds.

But how did birds survive when they were so closely related to the extinct dinosaurs? The answer may lie in a combination of factors: their small size, their ability to eat many different foods, and their ability to fly.


Evolution

A bird didn't evolve overnight from a Tyrannosaurus rex, but rather the classic features of birds evolved one by one; first bipedal locomotion, then feathers, then forked bones, then more complex feathers that looked like quill feathers, then wings, and the end result was a relatively seamless transition between dinosaurs and birds, so much so that you can't simply draw a line between the two groups.

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Comments
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    2023/02/05

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      2023/02/06

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      2023/02/04

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    2023/01/27

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      2023/01/09

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