Songbirds Carry on Dinosaurs’ Predatory Legacy


I now see more clearly the fearsome predator that is the Chestnut-backed Chickadee. His terrifying manner connects him all the way from falcons recently to eagles earlier, and — much earlier — to Tyrannosaurus rex. His terror is subtler than that of T. rex, with a multitude of insects taking on the role of cowering prey once played by Stegosaurus.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees, like all songbirds, have a long evolutionary history linked to apex predators like hawks, and later, falcons. Photo by Steve Zack ©WCS.

A recent publication by 105(!) authors provides the first whole-genome analysis of key bird families representing all living Orders, and with it a more fully fleshed-out sense of the origins and timing of the evolution of modern birds. The bird family tree, informed by the connectedness of near relatives and distant relations, including previously hard to place groups, is now resolved (and can be viewed here).

There is much to digest. Here are some highlights:

Birds are dinosaurs, as most (but not all!) scientists agree.

All but the avian line of dinosaurs died out after the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction linked to an asteroid impact some 66 million years ago. Birds, placental mammals, crocodiles, sea —> Read More Here


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