Birds are descendants of dinosaurs

The current scientific consensus is birds are descendants of dinosaurs. If we speak more accurately, they are a group of theropod dinosaurs originated during the Mesozoic Era.

A close relationship between birds and dinosaurs was first proposed in the 19th century after fossils of the primitive bird Archaeopteryx were discovered in Germany. The upper image corresponds to a fossil of this species. Birds share many unique skeletal traits with dinosaurs. In addition, there are fossils of more than twenty species of dinosaurs that have feathers. There are even very small dinosaurs, such as Microraptor and Anchiornis, which have long feathers on their arms and legs forming wings. Fossil evidence also shows that birds and dinosaurs shared features such as pneumatized bones, gastroliths in the digestive system, nest-building and breeding behaviors.

Dinosaurs' descendants - Comparison of the air sac system of birds and Majungasaurus - By Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Dinosaurs’ descendants – Comparison of the air sac system of birds and Majungasaurus – By Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Archeopteryx revealed that birds are dinosaurs’ descendants

Paleontologists see Archaeopteryx as a transitional fossil between dinosaurs and modern birds. With its mixture of bird and reptile features, it was long considered the first known bird. Discovered in 1860 in Germany, it is sometimes known as Urvogel, the German word for “original bird” or “first bird”. However, recent discoveries have displaced Archaeopteryx from that title. Archaeopteryx lived about 150 million years ago during the late Jurassic period in what is now Bavaria, in southern Germany. At that time, Europe was an archipelago and was much closer to the equator than today. Its latitude was similar to that of Florida today.

It is strange to think that one of the closest evolutionary relatives of a hummingbird is a dinosaur. Science never ceases to amaze us.

Featured image by H. Raab (User: Vesta) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0GFDL]