The Origin of Birds and Their Flight; Prehistoric Beasts; Exclusive Online Issues; by Kevin Padian and Luis M. Chiappe; 10 Page(s)
Until recently, the origin of birds was one of the great mysteries of biology. Birds are dramatically different from all other living creatures. Feathers, toothless beaks, hollow bones, perching feet, wishbones, deep breastbones and stumplike tailbones are only part of the combination of skeletal features that no other living animal has in common with them. How birds evolved feathers and flight was even more imponderable.
In the past 20 years, however, new fossil discoveries and new research methods have enabled paleontologists to determine that birds descend from ground-dwelling, meateating dinosaurs of the group known as theropods. The work has also offered a picture of how the earliest birds took to the air.