A study that has ‘weighed’ hundreds of dinosaurs suggests that shrinking their bodies may have helped the group that became birds to continue exploiting new ecological niches throughout their evolution, and become hugely successful today.
Dinosaurs aren’t extinct; there are about 10,000 species alive today in the form of birds. We wanted to understand the evolutionary links between this exceptional living group, and their Mesozoic relatives, including well-known extinct species like T. rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus,’ said Dr Roger Benson of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences, who led the study. ‘We found exceptional body mass variation in the dinosaur line leading to birds, especially in the feathered dinosaurs called maniraptorans. These include Jurassic Park’s Velociraptor, birds, and a huge range of other forms, weighing anything from 15 grams to 3 tonnes, and eating meat, plants, and more omnivorous diets.’
The team believes that small body size might have been key to maintaining evolutionary potential in birds, which broke the lower body size limit of around 1 kilogram seen in other dinosaurs.
Well, a brick can’t fly; that’s uncontroversial. But there is, of course, way more to becoming a bird.
This sort of analysis is interesting. It is a reasonable interpretation of the past. That’s conventionally called history. Why, in the absence of an ability to predict anything in the present, should it be called science?
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