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Asked at The Conversation: Could dinosaurs re-evolve?

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It’s a series for children but it raises an interesting question. Here’s the answer offered to whether birds, for example, could go back to being dinosaurs:

We know from fossil discoveries that Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus had scaly skin covering most of their bodies. Most modern birds have scaly feet, but none are scaly all over.

Although Triceratops had a ‘beak’ this was very different to a bird’s beak.

It’s hard to imagine what would force any bird to naturally replace its feathers with scales. Birds need feathers to fly, to save energy (by staying warm) and to put on special displays to attract mates.

Triceratops did have a “beak” at the front of its mouth, but this evolved completely separately to the beaks of birds and had two extra bones — something no living animal has.

What’s more, behind its beak and jaws, Triceratops had rows of teeth. While some birds such as geese have spiky beaks. No bird in the past 66 million years has ever had teeth.

Considering these huge differences, it’s really unlikely birds will ever evolve to look more like their extinct dinosaur relatives. And no extinct dinosaur will ever come back to life either — except maybe in movies!

Stephen Poropat, “Curious Kids: could dinosaurs evolve back into existence?” at The Conversation

But wait. Just a minute. According to the story, some dinos evolved into birds. If so, massive changes ARE possible. It’s not clear why changed circumstances could not cause some of those changes to be reversed.

Of course, to the extent that the future is unlikely to feature circumstances identical to the past, not all of the changes would be reversed. But the question is, is that a matter of “huge differences” or—as would seem more likely—the circumstances that led to “dinosaurism” will not likely be repeated in detail?

Comments
Polistra @4: "But it’s hard to imagine a set of conditions that would make flight impossible or even disadvantageous." are you aware of this ? "Key evolutionary innovation lost 1000 times! The ability of flight lost repeatedly in the vast majority of insect orders" https://stuffhappens.info/repeated-evolution-ability-to-fly-lost-in-the-vast-majority-of-insect-orders-multiple-times/martin_r
November 29, 2020
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If we start from the view that most changes happen in the variable epigenes, and the static genes are the junkyard of leftover crap, then the question is possible. But it's hard to imagine a set of conditions that would make flight impossible or even disadvantageous. Flying gives birds a HUGE advantage over landbound critters. Fast escape, fast short-line travel, access to more food, and a broad view of what's happening.polistra
November 29, 2020
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from the article “It’s hard to imagine what would force any bird to naturally replace its feathers with scales.” hard to imagine?? :)) When you look at evolutionary theory, it is clear, that Darwinians can imagine ANYTHING. The most impossible, the most absurd things, nothing is 'hard to imagine' when you are a Darwinian. To comment on 'Feather to scales', if i would be a Darwinian, i would suggest, e.g. SEXUAL SELECTION could force any bird to naturally replace its feathers with scales. e.g. some females may like males with scales more than males with feathers. That is it. So simple it is when you are a Darwinian. Darwinians can explain ANYTHING away...martin_r
November 29, 2020
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and, one more note regarding 're-evolution'. Some examples of re-evolutions: "Repeated evolution of placental structures: Evolved, devolved, and re-evolved many times" https://stuffhappens.info/repeated-evolution-of-placental-structures-evolved-devolved-and-re-evolved-many-times/ or "Repeated evolution: from egg laying to live-birth and then back to egg laying. Lizards re-evolved laying eggs multiple times" https://stuffhappens.info/repeated-evolution-giving-a-live-birth-but-then-back-to-egg-laying-lizards-re-evolved-laying-eggs-multiple-times/martin_r
November 29, 2020
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from the article "It’s hard to imagine what would force any bird to naturally replace its feathers with scales." a typical Darwinian clown... Really? Is there anything 'hard to imagine' for Darwinian clowns ? get this: "Surprising repeated devolution: Various species lineages lost teeth independently, despite crucial role of teeth in species survival" https://stuffhappens.info/surprising-repeated-devolution-various-species-lineages-lost-teeth-independently-despite-crucial-role-of-teeth-in-species-survival/martin_r
November 29, 2020
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