It is hard to believe that a small bird alive today could have evolved from an enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex. The story of the incredible shrinking dinosaurs has been published today in the journal Science.
In the abstract Associate Professor Mike Lee and his team assert:
“recent discoveries have highlighted the dramatic evolutionary transformation of massive, ground-dwelling theropod dinosaurs into light, volant birds.”
The research shows that there was a branch of dinosaurs that kept getting smaller, called theropods. These theropods eventually evolved into birds. Some of the features used to link theropods with modern birds are feathers, wishbones and air-filled bones.
“Birds evolved through a unique phase of sustained miniaturisation in dinosaurs. Being smaller and lighter in the land of giants, with rapidly evolving anatomical adaptations, provided these bird ancestors with new ecological opportunities, such as the ability to climb trees, glide and fly. Ultimately, this evolutionary flexibility helped birds survive the deadly meteorite impact which killed off all their dinosaurian cousins.” Says lead author Associate Professor Michael Lee, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the South Australian Museum.
The discovery has attracted international attention, including an explanation by Mike Lee himself in The Conversation, as well as coverage in New Scientist, BBC Nature, The Guardian, ABC National Radio Interview and Nature World News amongst others. Well done Mike Lee and team!