It's Thanksgiving and all of your family has gathered together for dinner. The table is loaded with all of your favorite foods; mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and peas. Then your sibling passes a plate saying, "Could you please give me a piece of that Dinosaur?" This may seem strange but according to a recent article, your thanksgiving turkey may be one of the most related living organisms to Dinosaurs.
The First Connection
Until the 19th century, birds and dinosaurs were considered to be completely unrelated. The discovery of an Archaeopteryx feather in Solnhofen region of Germany provided the first connection between birds and dinosaurs. Fully named Archaeopteryx lithographica; meaning "ancient wing from the printing stone" this fossil dates back from the Late Jurassic Period, 150 million years ago.
Containing both reptilian and avian features, the Archaeopteryx is considered as the first transition fossil to provide proof for the origin of birds from Dinosaurs. Currently, eight specimens of Archaeopteryx have been found all over the world.
Did You Know?
The Archaeopteryx had both upper and lower teeth in its beak
The discovery of the Archaeopteryx in the late 19th century caused a great uproar in both the scientific community and society at large. While the majority of the scientific community accepted the notion that birds had originated from dinosaurs, many were against it.
However, the discovery of a new fossil the Deinonychus in Montana in 1969, provided more support for this theory. Like the Archaeopteryx, it had many features which were found in both reptiles and birds.
Did You Know?
Currently, three families of transitional fossils between birds and dinosaurs have been discovered.
The New Discoveries
New discoveries made in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning, resulted in more feathered reptile fossils. Paleontologists described these fossils as being unique from previously discovered transition fossil and classified them as Sinosauropteryx, Caudipteryx and Protarchaeopteryx. All of the fossils discovered had long filament like soft tissue imprint which many scientists believe to be extremely similar to the feathers of modern day birds.
Did You Know?
Dinosaurs and Birds along with modern day reptiles are classified in the group Archosaur which means "ruling lizards".
So, if you really want to see a dinosaur, don't go far. You might just have one for dinner.
All About Archaeopteryx:
Archaeopteryx's Relationship With Modern Birds:
DinoBuzz: A popular discussion on Birds and Dinosaurs:
Connections between Birds and Dinosaurs on a molecular level:
Sarah Hasnain is a third year zoology student at the University of Toronto, who loves to read all about strange evolutionary connections and eats dinosaurs on a regular basis.