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What is the Theory of Dinosaur to Bird Evolution

Updated on July 20, 2017
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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    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      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.

    • profile image

      Shelly Noel 5 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!

    • gingersmaltese profile image

      gingersmaltese 6 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.

    • profile image

      VivekSri 7 years ago

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

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      WEOOOOO!!

      UPPER CASE RULES!!!!

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

    • profile image

      danielle 7 years ago

      SUREEEEEEEEEE

    • profile image

      daf 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      no i am a guy

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      u laugh like a girly austin! lol

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      i kno this sucks monkey balls jk lol

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      i kno this sucks monkey balls jk lol

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      i see u to and ya this is lame

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      ha ha ok

    • profile image

      danielle hotty 8 years ago

      jk jk jk jk jk lol lol lol

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      ok austin we get it lol!!

    • profile image

      DANIELLE HOTTY 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      ya we were very bored and we are not home schooled

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

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

    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 8 years ago from New England

      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.

    • profile image

      AUSTIN 8 years ago

      WHO ARE U GUYS

    • profile image

      a  8 years ago

      i see you to

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh teacher g2g

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      ya hahhahahhaha lol i see u lol hahahhahahhah

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      ha ha r u done now

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      jk lol

    • profile image

      DB 8 years ago

      WHO THE HEK IS THAT

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      who is this? aahhhhhhhhhhhhh stalker!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      i am doing a hockey puck and it is short

    • profile image

      AUSTIN 8 years ago

      SO IM I

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      k sweet! lol me dumb i did shoppin for my poem

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      i am done now

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      poem*

    • profile image

      DORK %% 8 years ago

      DUHHHHHHHH

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      sittin here llo hahhahah

      workin on our poe.! lol

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      wat u doin now

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      i kno lol, ya were done

    • profile image

      COOL CHICK 8 years ago

      YEP I AM SUCKERS

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      no u

    • profile image

      best western 8 years ago

      WOW KIMMY

    • profile image

      ak luver lol 8 years ago

      u guys done?

    • profile image

      BLONDEY 8 years ago

      I KNOW RIGHT HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAH

    • profile image

      BLONDE CHICK 8 years ago

      I KNOW RIGHT LOL JEEZE

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      in kno lol were stupid lol

    • profile image

      acklug 8 years ago

      cool

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      u?

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      we finishes the evolution part we still have the creatiion 1

    • profile image

      D>B 8 years ago

      NOT VERY MUCH

    • profile image

      acklug 8 years ago

      how much things u hav

    • profile image

      DANIELLERS 8 years ago

      YA TEE HEE MWHAHAHHAHAH

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      hi (girly voice) lol

    • profile image

      acklug 8 years ago

      hi

    • profile image

      DANIELLERS 8 years ago

      WHAT UP AUSTIIN COOLIOS

    • profile image

      DANIELLERS 8 years ago

      WHAT UP AUSTIIN COOLIOS

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      hey sup austin k?

    • profile image

      DANIELLERS 8 years ago

      I KNOW IT SUCKS

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      n2m this is lame man lol

    • profile image

      DANIELLERS 8 years ago

      N2M U ?

    • profile image

      kimzy  8 years ago

      hey sup d? hahhahah lol daniellers

    • profile image

      DANIELLERS 8 years ago

      NICE UM NEED MORE INFO THOUGH STOP SITTIN AROUND

    • profile image

      blonde chick 8 years ago

      nice information thanksss i needed it

    • profile image

      kimzy 8 years ago

      lame ans sooo not true man! gosh

    • profile image

      shanda 8 years ago

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

      xox

    • Emily404 profile image

      Emily404 9 years ago from Washington

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