Monday, February 10, 2014

Backward birds

The image above shows a young bird with claws on its wings like the extinct archaeopteryx, long believed to be evidence of the evolutionary transition of dinosaurs to birds. Except that the bird in the drawing is alive today – the only bird known to have this trait. The Amazonian hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) has a number of interesting characteristics, a striking appearance, some interesting nicknames, and some new conclusions about its origins. But the idea that it is a vestige of a bird which lived 150 million years ago is misleading. As Gerald Mayr, curator of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, points out, "Many Archaeopteryx reconstructions were inspired by hoatzins." Meanwhile, scientists attached prosthetic tails to chickens to test theories about the way bipedal dinosaurs moved. Researchers led by Bruno Grossi of the Universidad de Chile write, "These results indicate a shift from the standard bird, knee-driven bipedal locomotion to a more hip-driven locomotion, typical of crocodilians (the only other extant archosaur group), mammals, and hypothetically, bipedal non-avian dinosaurs." Watch the mesmerizing video HERE.

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