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Avian Flight$
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John J. Videler

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299928.001.0001

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Evolution of bird flight

Evolution of bird flight

(p.94) 5 Evolution of bird flight
Avian Flight

John J. Videler

Oxford University Press

Bird flight began to evolve some 150 million years ago. This chapter discusses typical structures of the oldest bird-like fossils of Archaeopteryx. Conflicting scenarios — the arborial and cursorial — describe how flight might have evolved. A new hypothesis is offered that explains most of the peculiar anatomical features, and suggests a matching ecological niche. Archaeopteryx is depicted to run like a Basilisk lizard over water. A quantitative biomechanical assessment shows that it could have generated the lifting forces required using spread wings and tail. Abundant water skaters from the same deposits are suggested as a possible food source. The remains of younger Mesozoic bird-like animals reveal the existence of parallel lines of evolution of flight related characters. A few groups of flying birds survived the mass extinction 65 million years ago, and were ancestral to the extant birds rapidly radiating during the beginning of the Tertiary.

Keywords:   Archaeopteryx, arborial scenario, cursorial scenario, anatomy, Basilisk lizard, biomechanics, water skaters, Mesozoic birds, modern birds

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