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Most close relatives of birds neared potential for powered flight

Christian Fernsby ▼ | August 12, 2020
Uncertainties in the evolutionary tree of birds and their closest relatives have impeded deeper understanding of early flight in theropods, the group of dinosaurs that includes birds.
Birds   Theropods
To help addres Michael Pittman (Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Division of Earth and Planetary Science and Department of Earth Sciences) and cofirstauthored by his former Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Rui Pei (now an Associate Professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing), produced an updated evolutionary tree of early birds and their closest relatives to reconstruct powered flight potential, showing it evolved at least three times.

Many ancestors of the closest bird relatives neared the thresholds of powered flight potential, suggesting broad experimentation with wing-assisted locomotion before flight evolved.