The Evolution of Birds

Convergent evolution, not descent, is illustrated in this drawing from the University of Arizona

Convergent evolution, not descent, is illustrated in this drawing from the University of Arizona

Last November, we briefly reviewed Paul Chambers’ Bones of Contention in Archaopteryx: Fight or Flight? (updated here in mid-January). Now, Science Daily offers an intriguing sidelight to that story in How a New Theory of Bird Evolution Came About. It is an extremely interesting, if brief, review of critical developments in the study of avian evolution which should be of significant value to anyone curious about such matters.

As Science Daily explains, the University of Montana’s Ken Dial and colleagues “have discovered in the laboratory that half a wing indeed can be useful. He has entered the evolution-of-flight fray by offering a third rival idea – the ontogenetic transitional wing hypothesis . . . . This theory suggests that birds evolved incrementally by using their half-developed wings to run up steep surfaces . . . and gained a survival advantage. Then they flapped their proto-wings to return to the ground safely. And, by the way, it’s no great leap to cross between these behaviors because they are linked by a fundamental, constant wing angle.

“‘We think our theory is a convergence of thought that’s a more complex marriage of the arboreal or cursorial camps,’ Dial said. ‘We have taken the beautiful sage elements from each one, and I feel we integrated them perfectly to say you never needed to go strictly from the ground up or tree down.’

“‘The eons-long evolution of flight is revealed to us in the development of baby birds,’ Dial said. ‘Our thesis came out from the demonstration of what living animals actually do. And now we have fossils that we never imagined being discovered in China, South America and Africa that look exactly like we expected – dinosaurs with feathers; dinosaurs with half a wing.’”

For a more detailed description of these new and exciting discoveries, see A Fundamental Avian Wing-Stroke Provides a New Perspective on the Evolution of Flight from the magazine Nature, What Use Is Half a Wing in the Ecology and Evolution of Birds? from the May 2006 BioScience, and related documents on the website of the University of Montana’s Flight Laboratory.

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Published in: on March 6, 2009 at 5:57 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Birds evolving from reptiles is one of the most idiotic theories ever proposed. Even if a dinosaur had feathers, it couldn’t fly. Reptiles have dense heavy bones, while birds have light hollow bones. Reptiles have no muscles for flight. Birds have tender skin with glands, reptiles have tough skin and no glands. The lungs, heart, eggs, and reproductive systems are completely different. Birds have the highest metabolic rate on earth, reptiles have the lowest. Birds reach a growth limit and stop, reptiles grow as long as they live. Is anything the same except for a superficial outward appearance? If you are going to promote such a thing, at least start out your story with “Once upon a time. long ago and far away.” Oh, I forgot, you already do. “Millions of years ago…”

    • Readers should know that Dr. Edgeworth is not a paleontologist or biologist but a Doctor of Theology who heads the Ministry of Creation Evangelism.

      • “idiotic” It is fun all the hate they have … and scary at the same time.


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