The Rise of Birds: 225 Million Years of Evolution

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9780801856150: The Rise of Birds: 225 Million Years of Evolution
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"I'm sure that May 21, 1986, will remain among the most memorable days of my career. On my way to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I had stopped in Lubbock, Texas, to study the Triassic archosaurs collected by Sankar Chatterjee from the Dockum beds of west Texas. I expected to see fossils of the large-headed carnivore Postosuchus, the armored herbivore Desmatosuchus, and the crocodile-like parasuchians. I wasn't expecting to see what I saw..." -- Lawrence M. Witmer, from the foreword

Dinosaurs are so popular that we often neglect their flying relatives that are still among us. Birds, the true "living dinosaurs," deserve considerable respect as successful vertebrates that have evolved, adapted, and survived over a period of 225 million years. The Rise of Birds is the first detailed, illustrated, and comprehensive review of the fossil record of birds in a modern phylogenetic context. Distinguished paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee provides a clear and exciting chronology documenting the long odyssey of birds since Protoavis -- which may have taken to the air some 75 million years before the widely known "first bird," Archaeopterix.

Throughout The Rise of Birds, Chatterjee offers a wealth of fascinating details from the colorful history of birds past and present. Among them: · Some intelligent theropods such as dromaeosaurs were arboreal and could climb trees with their swivel wrist joint and stiff tail. They were capable of parachuting and gliding from tree to ground.

· The discovery of downy theropod dinosaurs from China indicates that upper jaw mobility, not feathers, is the most distinctive characteristic of birds.

· Most birds were wiped out 65 million years ago, along with the dinosaurs, by large meteoritic impacts. However, few lineages of birds rebounded from this catastrophe and underwent an explosive evolution.

The Rise of Birds discusses the significance of all the many recently discovered bird and possible bird fossils, from Europe to China to Latin America. Chatterjee outlines the varying theories of how animal flight developed, and he explains, in terms of comparative anatomy, what makes a bird a bird. The book covers some of the greatest events in avian development: their emergence in the Triassic pangean world, their flight refinement and global diversification during the continental breakup of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, their sudden decline at the end-Cretaceous extinction, their rebound and explosive radiation dur-ing the Cenozoic era, and finally their destiny with us.

Beautifully illustrated by Michael W. Nickell, this book will be of interest to a broad range of readers, including vertebrate paleontologists, ornithologists, and amateur naturalists, including birders.

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Among the Dockum fossil beds of West Texas in 1983, paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee made a momentous discovery: the fossilized remains of a curious creature subsequently dubbed Protoavis, or primordial bird. In The Rise of Birds, Chatterjee writes that Protoavis predates Archaeopteryx, previously known as the "first bird" by some 75 million years, and that it is more closely related to the modern bird than its Johnny-come-lately rival. But Protoavis is only the starting point for this sweeping, detailed, and beautifully illustrated history of bird evolution. Chatterjee examines the many recent discoveries of bird fossils all over the world and comes to some fascinating and often surprising conclusions: the evolutionary link between birds and dinosaurs, for instance, or their near-extinction (along with the dinosaurs) when large meteors fell to earth almost 65 million years ago. From the distinguishing characteristics of avian anatomy to theories about the first avian flight, Chatterjee's book is a thoughtful and accessible look at one of the most flourishing products of evolution.

Book Description:

The first detailed, illustrated, and comprehensive review of the fossil record of birds -- with new information on the latest theories and evidence concerning their origins.

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