Birds: The Modern Dinosaurs
Most people are familiar with the story of the asteroid which killed off the majority of the dinosaurs when it hit the earth in the late Cretaceous period. However, not all of the dinosaurs were wiped out and, through millions of years of evolution, they have been transformed: into the birds that we see all around the world today.
Archaeopteryx, a 150-million-year-old animal, is the oldest known link between dinosaurs and the birds we know nowadays. Although it had a mouth full of sharp teeth, it also had feathers on its wings and a wishbone that would be familiar to anyone who has ever eaten a roast chicken! In 1996 scientists discovered the first known fossil of a feathered dinosaur unrelated to birds, Sinosauropteryx prima, which was found to date back 130 million years. In 2005, bones from Antarctica were found that were dated to before the asteroid is known to have hit Earth. These fossilised remains of the Vegavis iaai can be dated back to around 67 million years ago and they look strikingly similar to those of modern day ducks and geese.
“There is no doubt that birds are dinosaurs,” says Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “The evidence is so overwhelming, I would put it next to whether you’re going to question if humans are primates.”
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