The first thing you notice when you see a bird is the amazing ability to fly. Modern birds fly using their “hands”, which are feathered and very strong Air muscles.
But the ancestors of today’s birds could not fly. Birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs called theropods that walked on land. This includes such giant meat eaters Tyrannosaurus Rex, As well as very small, fast-moving dinosaurs.
Fossils of many of these tiny dinosaurs show that they are simple Fluffy feathers, But their hands are too small or too weak to fly. Some too Giant dinosaurs There may have been feathers as well.
So what were the dinosaurs doing with their feathers if they did not use them to fly? Let’s look for clues in today’s birds. The short, fluffy feathers help modern birds stay warm, and the brightly colored and designed feathers help the birds attract a mate.
So the dinosaurs may have developed feathers to do other work besides helping them fly. It was not until much later that they developed into strong, long feathers that build flying wings.
In the air
At one point, the small, feathered ancestors of modern birds began to fly. An idea About how it started, the short or weak wings may have helped the animal to move or slide from one tree branch to another. But we do not have much evidence that these small dinosaurs are very good at climbing many trees.
Another idea is that using short, stubborn winged dinosaurs can provide extra speed if used fast enough, and may help distract them when jumping after insects and other small prey.
Get a great clue from watching today’s ground-dwelling birds, partridges and young birds that have not learned to fly. If they are scared, they will run logs and other items to escape from predators.
Many types of birds can run on very steep slopes or even vertical surfaces. Young birds make it frantic Folds their wings In order to push them against the slope. Otherwise they will fall or collapse. This may have been another use for the stubborn wings of some small, feathered dinosaurs. These wings were gradually becoming more powerful and covered with feathers, which were eventually used to fly.
Of course, there are other groups of animals that they run on, the wrapping plane. Relatives of dinosaurs are another group of reptiles called sterosaurs or “wing lizards”.
These evolved before the early birds, but instead of feathers, the skin membrane stretched between their fourth finger and body. Some may Massive, With wingspan over 12 m. All of these creatures were wiped out by the mass extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
Today, bats use a similar membrane of skin to fly. But bats first appeared after the extinction of mammals and dinosaurs like us. We know very little about the origin of bats, but scientists have found that they formed a large part. Group of animals This includes cats, dogs, pangolins, horses, cows and even whales.
But the first animals to fly by folding were much older than birds, sterosaurs or bats, and first flew in the air 400 million years ago: Insects. Unlike birds and bats, insects do not develop wings from “weapons.” Scientists are still working on exactly how insects got their wings.
Matthew Wills, Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology at the Milner Center for Evolution, University of Bath
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