It is now a well-known fact that birds are modern dinosaurs. Most people do not know that but that is one of the greatest discoveries in evolutionary biology. Birds are wonderful creatures on the planet earth. Dinosaurs are another wonder of nature. So, it is very interesting to study what do birds and dinosaurs have in common?
What are a bird and a dinosaur?
There are about 10000 species of birds living on the planet earth. Approximately 15 billion birds are roaming every continent in the world. Each bird species has similarities, slight changes, and significant changes. But there are a few characteristics that every bird has.
All birds (Biological class Aves) have feathers and they are the only living animals with feathers. They all lay eggs instead of giving birth to offspring. They use their lungs to breathe. Birds’ hearts have four chambers. They are warm-blooded animals so they can keep a constant body temperature. Birds do not have any teeth, but their jaws are modified into beaks, and their forearms are modified into wings. But some birds can’t fly. Birds like Ostrich, Rhea and extinct bird Moa has no or very smaller wing bones. Walking on two legs and digesting food using a gizzard (A special muscular organ) are some characteristics of birds.
Dinosaurs on the other hand have been talked about a lot on our science blog. They are a group of reptiles who lived in a time known as the Mesozoic era. They were spread to every different environment at that time. Other than characteristics common to reptiles, dinosaurs had an upright stance with legs perpendicular to their body. There was a hole between the eye socket and nostril and two holes behind the eye socket. Most of those characteristics made them fierce. Perhaps that is the reason for their long time survival until that unfortunate event.
Early reptiles that showed bird traits
All flesh-eating dinosaurs are included in the Theropods group. Theropods have very similarities with modern birds. First Theropods were Herrerasaurus and Eoraptor which were found in Argentina. There were three groups of Theropods who survived the end of the Cretaceous period. Ceratosaurs, Coelurosaurs, and Allosaurs are those. All Theropods were bipeds. Bipeds mean animals that use two legs to walk.
All birds walk using two legs only and their forearms became wings. Theropods showing similar characteristics except not all Theropods had wings tell us about a connection between dinosaurs and birds. Allosaurus and many other Coelurosaurs had claws. The thing is they functioned as grappling meat hooks. They helped them in grasping and tearing the prey. We can spot many similarities by comparing bird skeletons and dinosaur fossils together.
Besides the bipedal stance which provided support and locomotion, the s-curve neck is another thing that dinosaurs and birds had in common. All Therizinosaurus, Ceratosaurs, and Limosaurus had beaks. You can understand how similar these dinosaurs are to modern birds by just looking at them.
Characteristics that Birds and Dinosaurs Have in Common
Archaeopteryx is a much more bird-like dinosaur. It lived 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic Epoch. The name means feather or wing in ancient Greek. Archaeopteryx had many bird traits that can be considered as a true daunted or the first real bird. Birds take steps by swinging their upper legs relatively little. Dinosaur fossils say they have also used a similar method of taking steps.
Birds have scales on some parts of their body so did dinosaurs. Scientists also pointed out some dinosaurs may have feathers. Some latest discoveries in China make that claim more solid. Both dinosaurs and birds had three toes in their legs.
Some of these dinosaurs evolved into more bird-like creatures. Sinornis Santensis is one example. Sinornis Santensis was discovered in Liaoning, China. They were one of the first birds to be able to fly. Vegavis iaai is another early bird that shows similarities to modern ducks. These 167 million old creatures are found in the Antarctic. A vocal organ called Syrinx can be found in Vegavis iaai fossils and ducks. So, it may not only look like a duck but also sound like one.
How birds survive the dinosaur extinction
About 65 million years ago an asteroid of 7.5 miles in diameter hit the earth and end the Cretaceous Period. At a time after VEGAVAS IAAI. Scientists are uncertain how birds survive such a cataclysmic event that wipes out the age of reptiles.
Modern birds have proportionally larger reshaped brains. Some thought it is because of their unique small body size. But a new study by researchers at the University of Texas made a great discovery. The X-ray, CT scanned a fossil of Ichthyornis which is a bird that lived before the mass extinction. Its brain is similar to other dinosaurs at the time except for one thing. A wulst is a brain structure observed in bird species that lived after the mass extinction. But Ichthyornis having a wulst helped us to solve the mystery of the bird’s survival.
We still do have not a solid answer to the question. Some fossil records show many bird species also perished during the mass extinction. But a few adaptations that some bird species have could have helped them to escape. That includes bigger brains, small size, the ability to eat a wider palate of food, and the ability to fly fast at higher altitudes.
After the asteroid, birds evolved in different environments. Birds are unique in many ways. They now live and inhabit the entire world. Birds migrate to other countries depending on the season. Especially some birds migrate towards the equator in fall to spend the winter and to the North went winter is over. There are flightless birds, birds that can run at high speeds, and birds that can swim.
Birds are the only surviving dinosaurs from that asteroid after all. So next time you see birds in your garden remember you are looking at modern-day dinosaurs.
If you are interested in reading more about dinosaurs, you can check out other articles where we discussed many things about them. Stay with us for further knowledge.