American scientists explain why birds are the only descendants of dinosaurs left on Earth

American scientists explain why birds are the only descendants of dinosaurs left on Earth


2021-08-07 18:50:56

As is known, many recorded fossils indicate that birds were feathered dinosaurs, evolving from a larger group of theropods into the Late Jurassic. Birds then continued to survive the extinction event 66 million years ago and develop more diversely to this day.

Therefore, birds are the only surviving descendants of dinosaurs today, and in fact dinosaurs never went extinct.

The brain shape of a recently discovered bird fossil could explain how the ancestors of modern birds survived a mass extinction that killed off other dinosaurs.

Lead researcher Christopher Torres said: “Existing birds have more complex brains than any other known animal, except mammals. The new fossil allows us to verify whether the brain played an important role in existence. theirs or not?”.

The 70-million-year-old fossil contains an almost complete skull, allowing researchers to study in detail the brain of a bird called Ichthyornis, which lived in the late Cretaceous period. Ichthyornis resembled an albatross but became extinct along with other dinosaurs.

Ichthyornis has both avian and non-avian characteristics similar to dinosaurs. For example, they have jaws full of teeth and sharp beaks. Using CT imaging data, the researchers created a 3D replica of the bird’s brain to compare it with living birds and also with distant dinosaur relatives.

Analysis shows that the brain of Ichthyornis has more similarities with dinosaurs than with living birds. According to the study, the cerebral hemispheres (where higher cognitive functions such as speech, thoughts and emotions are formed in humans) are much larger in modern birds than in Ichthyornis.

American scientists explain why birds are the only surviving descendants of dinosaurs on Earth - Photo 2.

This means that the key to surviving the mass extinction may be the forebrain being more developed than that of Ichthyornis and other extinct dinosaur families.

Torres said: “If some brain trait affects survival, we’d expect it to be present in living species and lacking in extinct species like Ichthyornis. That’s exactly what we’re seeing. here”.

It is rare for paleontologists to find the skulls of early birds and dinosaurs still intact and quite well preserved. As a result, scientists were able to extract a lot of information about the brains of ancient birds.

Study co-author Professor Julia Clarke said: “Ichthyornis is the key to unraveling that mystery. This fossil helps bring us closer to answering some of the nagging questions related to living birds and their ability to survive with dinosaurs”.

The study was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

Refer to Earth

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