Feeds

The Therapod diet: From HUMUNGO DINO to TINY BIRD in 50m years

Look, ma, no gastric band

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Video Terrifying dino-beasts from the family that spawned Tyrannosaurus rex kept shrinking and shrinking until they evolved into cute little birds, the whole process taking around 50 million years, according to palaeoboffins.

Youtube Video

Certain members of the theropod family – which counts T rex and Giganotosaurus carolinii among its members, although the boffins note the two were not from the lineage that produced birds – just kept shrinking down over millions of years, sprouting feathers and wings along the way.

"Birds evolved through a unique phase of sustained miniaturisation in dinosaurs," said lead author associate professor Michael Lee from the University of Adelaide's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the South Australian Museum.

"Being smaller and lighter in the land of giants, with rapidly evolving anatomical adaptations, provided these bird ancestors with new ecological opportunities, such as the ability to climb trees, glide and fly.

“Ultimately, this evolutionary flexibility helped birds survive the deadly meteorite impact which killed off all their dinosaurian cousins."

The theropod bird ancestors evolved new adaptations like feathers, wishbones and wings four times faster than other dinos, but also evolved into mini-dinos that were close relatives of the bird.

From left to right are: the ancestral neotheropod (~220 Million years old), the ancestral tetanuran (~200 myo), the ancestral coelurosaur (~175 myo), the ancestral paravian (~165 myo), and Archaeopteryx (150 myo).

From left to right are: the ancestral neotheropod (~220 Million years old), the ancestral tetanuran (~200 myo), the ancestral coelurosaur (~175 myo), the ancestral paravian (~165 myo), and Archaeopteryx (150 myo). Credit: Davide Bonnadonna

"The dinosaurs most closely related to birds are all small, and many of them - such as the aptly named Microraptor - had some ability to climb and glide," said Gareth Dyke of the University of Southampton, who co-authored the paper.

The researchers examined over 1,500 anatomical traits of dinosaurs to build their family tree and then used sophisticated maths modelling to trace evolving adaptations and body size over time and across subspecies. The ancestors to birds were the lucky ones, coming up with an evolutionary way to sidestep the unlucky asteroid that wiped out its brethren.

"Birds out-shrank and out-evolved their dinosaurian ancestors, surviving where their larger, less evolvable relatives could not," said Lee.

The full study, “Sustained miniaturization and anatomical innovation in the dinosaurian ancestors of birds”, was published in Science. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.