BIRDS: Dinosaurs?



Maxwell Zbytowski, Culture Reporter

You read that correctly, but to answer your first question: Yes. Birds are in fact dinosaurs. 

We know this from their family tree and how it flows throughout the 165 million years of the triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous period. The non-avian (avian meaning flying) dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago, and it made way for the birds of today. The Cretaceous mass-extinction, which dawned the end of the dinosaurs as we know them: T-rex, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, etc,. was not instantaneous. In fact, it took up to a million years for the non-avian dinosaurs to become fully extinct. Scientists know this from looking at the layers of rock surrounding their fossils. Some are fossilized above the known mass extinction layer, making this explanation possible.

Avian dinosaurs appeared about five million years before the mass extinction, ending the reign of reptiles. There is a fine line between the non-avian and avian dinosaurs when we compare the family tree. When looked at, one would notice that birds are classified under Saurischia – Theropoda – skip a few branches and finally Aves, in regards to dinosaur classification. Theropods are generally carnivorous, but some herbivorous members exist. Because of the classification, however, that technically makes birds an advanced family of reptiles. 

The discovery of feathers on non-avian dinosaurs has been dated in recent times. It suggests the fact that some dinosaur species were cold blooded, others warm blooded (aves) and some in between. In addition, it also suggests that the feathers are a convergent trait in regards to evolution, and that their only use wasn’t just flying. For example, in warmer blooded dinosaurs, feathers were probably used for thermoregulation amongst other things. Perhaps the non-avian and avian dinosaurs were more closely related than previously thought, of course only time will tell.

To conclude: birds are in fact dinosaurs. They are not the descendants such as previously thought. They are the real, legitimate thing. Maybe think about how amazing it is to be eating some of the closest relatives to the T-rex or any other theropods.