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Science has known that there is some evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds, but establishing a direct connection between the giant and today’s birds seems to be difficult. Now, as per a new study, an existing fossil record and several recent finds of feathered dinosaurs is used for drawing a direct connection.
Instead of direct transition in some kind of abrupt ‘missing link’ dinosaur/bird creature, that the paleontologists were not able to unearth in the fossils, the birdlike traits were slowly evolved by the dinosaurs as soon as the first dinosaurs themselves appeared. So finally, these science fueled nightmares of T-Rex suddenly sprouting wings and flying are put to rest.
850 body features of around 150 extinct species of bird were examined by Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at Edinburgh University and his colleagues. A comparison of these against their dinosaur ancestors was made. With this, a complete family tree was created showing the evolution of features over time until the dinosaurs took flight finally.
It is still unknown as to why birds wound up so evolutionarily superior to dinosaurs that they lived on while the dinosaurs died out. The advantage of this new model is that it fits better with the existing evolutionary theory. Not only is this a gradual change, which is easier to explain through small changes over time than a big jump, but is also supportive of a theory that a paleontologist, George Gaylord Simpson put forth in the 1940s. The theory stated that once a new body plan first emerges, that is when the diversification of bird species is seen.