and newly found fossils
have shown enough proofs that certain species of dinosaurs once had feathers. These led to certain speculations like dinosaurs were able to fly before. While this theory isn’t backed-up with enough evidences yet to be considered a fact, paleontologists today was able to create what they claim is its most detailed family tree.
Utilizing 853 body features across 150 specimens of coelurosaurs (a group including tyrannosaurs, raptors, and birds), they have discovered a gradual transition of dinosaur from being meat-eating creatures to birds. They’ve mapped this out through the Theropod Working Group based at the American Museum of Natural History on which specimens represented numerous eons of dinosaurian evolution. Specifically, they’ve analyzed specimens from a 170 million years old coelurosaur as the oldest to the extant birds today as the youngest.
"We hypothesize that the classic avian body plan was assembled gradually over many millions of years, but when it came together fully, then bam, something changed," lead author Steve Brusatte told Motherboard
. "Something was unlocked, allowing birds to evolve much, much faster than other dinosaurs."
The study creates fresh insights into the origin of birds and broader implications for evolutionary biology in general. "There are a few datasets out there that are bigger than ours, [with] more species and characters, but these are hodgepodge datasets that people make by combining stuff from the literature, without seeing the specimens themselves," he added. But the real question is what has driven birds to evolve at such a "supercharged rate" separating from their fellow dinosaurs? While we might immediately think that this is due to the need to fly, Brusatte suspects it to be more complicated.
"I think that over tens of millions of years of evolution, this one lineage of dinosaurs that became ever-more-birdy over time happened to hit on something successful," he said. "A new body plan, a new repertoire of behaviors, including flight, small size and perhaps faster metabolism, that opened up new niches and evolutionary possibilities."
While it isn’t completely certain yet, this expands evidence that what we might be eating right now was actually a part of those Jurassic Park “pets” in the movies.