What is the Theory of Dinosaur to Bird Evolution

Archaeopteryx fossil with clearly visable feathers.
Archaeopteryx fossil with clearly visable feathers.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley

The Theory Forms

Not many people know that the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs is almost as old as dinosaur paleontology itself. It dates back to same period Darwin was starting to propose his theory of evolution. Darwin was not immediately liked. In fact one of his proponents was a Thomas Henry Huxley, a 20-something year old self-taught biologist and anatomist. Normally such a person wouldn't take up much time or attention from the intellectual elite at the time but there was something about this young man that drew Darwin to him. He wished to convince him that the theory of evolution was not just hot air and that's what he did. Within a few years Huxley went from an ardent disbeliever to a proponent of Darwin's theory. In Darwin's later life Huxley took on the challenge to show the world the advancements of science and evolutionary theory. He was the first to call himself Darwin's Bulldog.

During this time he also was busy in his own studies and was becoming an expert in reptilian fossils. A strange fossil had been found in 1861 that was named archaeopteryx. It was 145 million years old and appeared to be a very primitive bird with flight feathers and wings. However it was strange in the fact it's skeleton, and particularly its head, all looked more like a lizard then a bird. It had rows of sharp teeth where a beak should have been and maintained three claws on its wings and back feet that resembled dinosaurs more then birds. Huxley took this to mean that small carnivorous dinosaurs had evolved through time to become birds. He had his supporters and believers at the time but the theory had long fallen out of favor by the time I came around. Still, it was intriguing. Modern paleontologists often avoided the subject, unable to explain why it had combined features, they eventually classified it as a bird. There was no other fossils found with more primitive feathers or other links on this evolutionary chain. Paleontologists considered it an evolutionary dead end, not the ancestors of birds. Few kept this accused antiquated belief in dinosaur birds.

Fossil with down feathers
Fossil with down feathers
Fossil with primitive "flight feathers" on arms and legs (likely for gliding)
Fossil with primitive "flight feathers" on arms and legs (likely for gliding)
Fossil flight feather from unknown animal.
Fossil flight feather from unknown animal.
Artist's rendition of proto-bird dinosaur.
Artist's rendition of proto-bird dinosaur.

Feathered Dinosaurs Motherload Found in China

Starting in 1994 a series of discoveries were made in China by farmers. They unearthed a treasure trove of feathered dinosaur and primitive bird fossils that dated between 120-145 million years ago. They were the first to find not only one missing link but dozens, showing a clear picture and proving therapods were indeed bird ancestors.

The first of the feathered dinosaurs perplexed modern paleontologists. It was titled Sinosauropteryx prima and it looked entirely like a therapod dinosaur with one exception, it was covered in hair-like down feathers. Paleontologists clamored together and theorized that feathers evolved to keep these dinosaurs warm or protected from the elements. Some claimed feathers likely evolved many times and this was not the infamous avian ancestor.

Then Sinornithosaurus was discovered. It was another dinosaur covered in down feathers but this time it had a little more. It had stiff feathers on its arms, not unlike flight feathers, but not enough to actually aid in flight or gliding. These could have evolved for ornamentation to attract a mate or to keep balance while they were chasing prey. These dinosaurs had long arms used for snatching prey and drawing them nearer to their dreadful teeth.

Just as the paleontologists were starting to get worried their disbelief was wrong more fossils were found. This time they were like archaeopteryx with full flight feathers and covered bodies but some of these had lost the lizard-like tail and were evolving beaks. It was theorized these earliest of birds were gliders who lived in the trees and caught prey far above the ground. However when biologists started to study bird flight from various angles they noticed something strange. Flighted birds did not flap their wings up and down as most would have hypothesized. Instead they made a strange figure eight-like movement with their wings, almost as if they were swimming through the air. This is what gave them maximum lift. It wasn't long before paleontologists realized this would have been the same movement a theropod would make if it were grasping prey with its fierce claws and long arms. Flight it seems was something of a happy accident.

So now the dinosaur to bird theory is again in popular favor where it always belonged. Instead of being an outdated idea it's an idea that's being expanded as new questions arise. For example, how and why did down feathers evolve into stiff feathers? The jury is still out as paleontologists bicker quietly amongst themselves. Someday the public may know where the truth lies.

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Comments 65 comments

Emily404 profile image

Emily404 8 years ago from Washington

I learned about this in my college dinosaur class. Good Information.


shanda 8 years ago

JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!.....serisously

xox


kimzy 7 years ago

lame ans sooo not true man! gosh


blonde chick 7 years ago

nice information thanksss i needed it


DANIELLERS 7 years ago

NICE UM NEED MORE INFO THOUGH STOP SITTIN AROUND


kimzy  7 years ago

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DANIELLERS 7 years ago

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kimzy 7 years ago

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DANIELLERS 7 years ago

I KNOW IT SUCKS


kimzy 7 years ago

hey sup austin k?


DANIELLERS 7 years ago

WHAT UP AUSTIIN COOLIOS


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WHAT UP AUSTIIN COOLIOS


acklug 7 years ago

hi


kimzy 7 years ago

hi (girly voice) lol


DANIELLERS 7 years ago

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acklug 7 years ago

how much things u hav


D>B 7 years ago

NOT VERY MUCH


kimzy 7 years ago

we finishes the evolution part we still have the creatiion 1


kimzy 7 years ago

u?


acklug 7 years ago

cool


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in kno lol were stupid lol


BLONDE CHICK 7 years ago

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7 years ago

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kimzy 7 years ago

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7 years ago

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poem*


7 years ago

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7 years ago

i am doing a hockey puck and it is short


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DB 7 years ago

WHO THE HEK IS THAT


kimzy 7 years ago

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7 years ago

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a  7 years ago

i see you to


AUSTIN 7 years ago

WHO ARE U GUYS


Theophanes profile image

Theophanes 7 years ago from New England Author

Glad my article has proven amusing fodder for a gaggle of.... let me guess, bored Christian home schoolers? I could delete these comments but I won't... The article stands for itself even with the ridicule of a peanut gallery.


kimzy 7 years ago

ya were don't home school but we do go to a christian scholl and we were very bored! lol


7 years ago

ya we were very bored and we are not home schooled


DANIELLE HOTTY 7 years ago

YA WERE NOT HOMESCHOOLED ND I DON'T CARE WHAT U SAY U LITTLE BEEP


kimzy 7 years ago

ok austin we get it lol!!


danielle hotty 7 years ago

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7 years ago

ha ha ok


kimzy 7 years ago

i see you lol im stupid this is like so lame man lol


7 years ago

i see u to and ya this is lame


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kimzy 7 years ago

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kimzy 7 years ago

u laugh like a girly austin! lol


7 years ago

no i am a guy


kimzy 7 years ago

r u sure about that? cuz ur laugh is like a girl! hahhhahhaab sry me hyper


daf 7 years ago

wow these commrnts are sooo.... wat the word gay


danielle 6 years ago

SUREEEEEEEEEE


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

WEOOOOO!!

UPPER CASE RULES!!!!

I LOVE TO YELL:) :) :) :)


VivekSri 6 years ago

A blast from the past and that intrigues more, love that one of yours. Good effort. Cheers.


gingersmaltese profile image

gingersmaltese 5 years ago from 27597

You must not realize that modern avian experts acknowledge that Archeopteryx is 100% bird, its simply a member of an extinct family of birds that had teeth. It does not have reptilian features. You might as well as use a turkey as a missing link between dinosaurs and birds.


Shelly Noel 4 years ago

Wow u guys are sooo stupid... BTW I actually am home schooled and no i am not a christian and this is so lame... uh yeah so i'm using this info for a reasearch paper and i can't wait to shock all those lil homeschool bitches!!!! HAHAHA!


Theophanes profile image

Theophanes 4 years ago from New England Author

gingersmaltese I wrote this over two years ago. A lot has changed and I admit I haven't been paying much attention to this or any other subject I've written about for awhile now. Sadly I was letting my Hubs kind of just sit. That being said I don't really know where the guff is coming from with you. I was describing what the animal looked like to people in the 1800's, not what it was classified as today. I have added an extra line to make you happy, stating it is now considered a bird, though I find this to be neither here nor there.

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