Last week I posted about New Zealand being a lost world of dinosaurs – as long as we think of birds as a dinosaur. Which, of course, they are.
This isn’t hyperbole. Today, birds are formally part of the dinosaur clade – the greater family. Specifically, they are avian dinosaurs, whereas the ones that went extinct 65 million years ago were the non-avian version.
This concept has been a long time coming, although it shouldn’t have been. The relationship between birds and dinosaurs began emerging in the nineteenth century, starting with the Jurassic-age fossil of Archaeopteryx dug out of a quarry near Solnhofen in 1860-61. It was a bird with toothed jaws, found to be related to contemporary ground-dwelling maniraptors. Even so, paleontologists usually imagined that birds were a dinosaur side-branch that had gained distinctive characteristics and become a separate creature.
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