OpinionJune 25, 2024
Discover the fascinating link between birds and dinosaurs, supported by extensive fossil evidence and research tracing back to Charles Darwin. Explore how modern birds evolved from their prehistoric ancestors.
Sue Vogelsanger
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Somehow the idea of a bird being kin to a dinosaur makes a person wonder how much moonshine drinking has been involved in that theory.

However, research involving people like Charles Darwin indicates there is a strong case for this phenomenon. The present scientific consensus is that birds are a group of maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs that originated during the Mesozoic Era.

This theory was first proposed in the 19th century after the discovery of the primitive bird known as Archaeopteryx in Germany. Birds and extinct non-avian dinosaurs have many unique skeletal traits in common. Also, fossils of more than 30 species of non-avian dinosaurs with preserved feathers have been collected. There are even very small dinosaurs, such as Microraptor and Anchiornis, which have long, vaned arm and leg feathers forming wings. The Jurassic basal avialan Pedopenna also shows these long foot feathers.

Paleontologist Lawrence Witmer concluded in 2009 that this evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that avian evolution went through a four-winged stage. Fossil evidence also demonstrates that birds and dinosaurs shared features such as hollow pneumatized bones, gastroliths in the digestive system, nest-building and brooding behaviors.

Although the origin of birds has historically been a contentious topic within evolutionary biology, only a few scientists still dispute the dinosaurian origin of birds. Some suggest birds descended from other types of archosaurian reptiles.

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From my kitchen and dining room windows, I can watch bird behavior and antics. Sometimes the birds are a lot more entertaining than television. When I toss bird seed out onto my patio, it is a treat for me to watch them swoop in to dine. A squirrel I call Sammy occasionally comes to join them. And a few times I have seen deer, raccoons and rabbits come to get a share.

Watching birds hunting for underground earthworms is something entertaining to witness. I do feel sorry for the earthworms though. From what I have read, the birds locate their prey thanks to the low-key vibrations made by the worms. Birds evidently have an acute sense of hearing.

Also, watching a bird fly is beyond fantastic. Sometimes a neighbor lady named Lorine and I sit out in her driveway to visit. During this time, we notice birds flying overhead. A flock of white doves is particularly lovely, and a few squawking geese headed for who-knows-where adds to the scene.

Flying birds winging their way across the sky make an F-15 fighter jet look like a child's toy.

SUE VOGELSANGER of Cape Girardeau, a longtime contributor to The Banner Press, has strong familial ties to Bollinger County. Her columns are scheduled to run on the first Wednesday of the month.

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