the evolution of birds

The Evolution of Birds

Bird evolution is an interesting subject – surely that innocent blackbird whose song brightens up your garden can’t be related to some of the fiercest creatures to ever walk the Earth? But it’s true! Every bird, from the Andean Condor to the singing starling, evolved from dinosaurs in one way or another. Think of that next time you’re topping up your bird food!

But just how did the towering T-Rex become a farm favourite bird (more on that later!)? Well, let’s find out. We’ve taken a look at how exactly birds evolved, what dinosaur species they inherited some of their most defining features from, and just how much dinosaur is left in some of our modern birds. So, let’s take a closer look at the evolution of birds.

How Did Birds Evolve?

The history of birds evolution is varied and interesting, stemming from the some of the most recognisable dinosaurs. This phylogenetic tree shows the evolution of birds as we know them today. Beginning with ancestral roots in relatives of crocodiles (the modern equivalent of a dinosaur), the phylogenetic tree of our modern birds stretches across the three periods of the Ages of the Dinosaurs – Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous.

Many features of birds are believed to have been inherited from a family of two-legged, three-toed dinosaurs we call theropods. The members of this group include the T Rex and the Velociraptor, two of the most well known dinosaurs. However, birds evolved from smaller theropods, making them, by all accounts, more Velociraptor than they are T Rex.

Take a look at how birds as we know them today came to be – how many dinosaurs do you recognise?!

What Was The First Bird?

Although there has been dispute on exactly what was the first ‘bird’, it’s widely believed that the Archaeopteryx can claim this title. This primitive bird-like creature shares many features with our modern day birds, particularly in their outer features. However, experts believe that the Archaeopteryx weren’t as adept at flying as modern day birds. Although the structure of its wing feathers suggests that the Archaeopteryx could fly, the strength of the bones indicates that it could fly in bursts over short distances, rather than long journeys as modern birds can.

Take a look at the first bird, the features it shares with our own birds and it’s completely unique characteristics.

Which Birds Are The Closest To Dinosaurs?

Well, now we’ve seen some of the interesting features of the very first bird. But what else do birds share with dinosaurs? After all, it took years of evolution to produce the birds we have today. Plenty of modern day birds share characteristics and DNA with a surprising range of dinosaurs, from the feared T Rex to the unique Anchiornis.

For example, a fossil that looked almost identical to an ostrich was discovered in North America in the late 1800’s. As well as this, the velociraptor has passed down it’s DNA to many birds, including the terrifying Shoebill bird and the Cinereous Vulture, one of the largest flying birds in the world. But, of all the dino-related birds, perhaps the most mind-boggling is the domestic chicken. These familiar birds have more similar genetic makeup to the towering T Rex than any other animal!  

Find out which of our well-known birds are the closest descendants of dinosaurs.       

Sources

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982215009458

https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/birds/archaeopteryx.html

https://www.britannica.com/animal/Archaeopteryx

https://www.insider.com/birds-that-look-like-dinosaurs-2019-2

https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/nature/article/2016/02/11/11-times-birds-looked-dinosaurs-they-secretly-are

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