Feeds

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

Look, ma, no gastric band

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.