News / Science & Technology

Dinosaur Descendants Shrank to Survive

Tyrannosaurus rex went extinct in a relatively short compared to the dinosaur line that led to birds. (Credit: Royal Ontario Museum)
Tyrannosaurus rex went extinct in a relatively short compared to the dinosaur line that led to birds. (Credit: Royal Ontario Museum)
Rosanne Skirble
Not all dinosaurs went extinct. Some are alive today in the form of birds. A new study finds that shrinking helped these birds continue to thrive and evolve.  

“If we really want to know how birds came about, then we need to study the line leading to birds, which includes this big diversity of animals like triceratops and stegosaurus and T. Rex,” said Roger Benson, associate professor of paleontology at Oxford University and lead author of the study reported PLOS Biology.

His team followed the evolution more than 400 dinosaurs, noting their size and what they weighed.  

“The largest dinosaur in our study we believed weighed 90 tons, and the smallest dinosaur was a bird called Qiliania and that weighed 15 grams," Benson said. "So you could fit Qiliania six million times inside Argentinosaurus, the largest dinosaur.”
 
Dinosaur Descendants Shrank to Survive
Dinosaur Descendants Shrank to Survive i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Since these species are extinct, Benson's team calculated that weight with an analysis of fossil limbs which, like pillars, would hold up the weight of the dinosaur.

“And there’s a welcome strained relationship between the robustness of those pillars and the mass of the animal that is observed among modern mammals and reptiles, and so it’s fairly reliable for knowing the masses of extinct animals,” he said.
The lightweight Archaeopteryx is considered the first bird. Its shrinking size might have been key to the evolutionary success of birds. (Credit: Roger Benson)The lightweight Archaeopteryx is considered the first bird. Its shrinking size might have been key to the evolutionary success of birds. (Credit: Roger Benson)
x
The lightweight Archaeopteryx is considered the first bird. Its shrinking size might have been key to the evolutionary success of birds. (Credit: Roger Benson)
The lightweight Archaeopteryx is considered the first bird. Its shrinking size might have been key to the evolutionary success of birds. (Credit: Roger Benson)


The study examined how fast body size changed on the entire family tree of dinosaurs, based on the thickness of their thigh bones. It found dinosaurs quickly evolved big bodies, soon after their origins about 220 million years ago.

Then the rates of growth slowed and these giants went extinct after 20 million years. Benson says the one exception was the line leading to birds, which kept evolving a range of body mass, including radically smaller body sizes.

“We find that fast rates of evolution are maintained for the whole study period, so for nearly 200 million years," Benson said. "So this is a very evolvable lineage. There’s a long ancient background to the modern radiation [spread] of birds through which their ancestors were constantly finding new ecological opportunities and inventing new ways of being an organism.”

He says the long journey evident in the fossil record that connects the 10,000 bird species alive today underscores a bigger evolutionary question.

“We're no longer asking how the radiation of living birds proceeded over, let's say, 100 million years," he said. "Instead we're asking where does biological diversity come from over very long time scales and ultimately those time scales might be relevant in establishing how life evolved in general, not just birds or just even vertebrates, but just organisms or animals in general?”  

Benson says what is clear from this study is that evolving different sizes was important to the success of the feathered dinosaur lineage. His next step is to look at other patterns in dinosaur evolution to see how other features changed over time.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs