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Armella Leung

Carl Zimmer

Olivier Oswald

Sound Designer


Additional Resources for you to Explore

Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals. They first appeared during the Triassic period, approximately 230 million years ago, and were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for 135 million years, from the beginning of the Jurassic (about 201 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous (66 million years ago), when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of most dinosaur groups at the close of the Mesozoic Era. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic Period and, consequently, they are considered a subgroup of dinosaurs by many paleontologists. Some birds survived the extinction event that occurred 66 million years ago, and their descendants continue the dinosaur lineage to the present day.

Archaeopteryx (ar-kee-OP-ter-iks) is considered by most to be a true flying dinosaur. It has feathers, and only birds have feathers; therefore, Archaeopteryx is usually considered a bird. (This argues for the evolution of birds from theropods.) Seven specimens showing the faint impression of feathers have been found. In one case (the Teyler specimen) the fossil was mis-identified in 1857, and the error was not corrected until 1970 when the feathers were first detected.

Plenty of robots can fly -- but none can fly like a real bird. That is, until Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings. A soaring demo fresh from TEDGlobal 2011.

Renowned paleontologist Jack Horner has spent his career trying to reconstruct a dinosaur. He's found fossils with extraordinarily well-preserved blood vessels and soft tissues but never intact DNA. So, in a new approach, he's taking living descendants of the dinosaur (chickens) and genetically engineering them to reactivate ancestral traits — including teeth, tails, and even hands — to make a "Chickenosaurus".

Feathers are one of the epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, orplumage, on birds and some non-avian theropoddinosaurs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates, and indeed a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty.

Watch this video by the BBC about feathers and dinosaurs and the mystery that baffled many scientists.

Eosinopteryx feathered dinosaur offers clues on bird evolution, an article by BBC.

Carl Zimmer wrote an article for National Geographic, published February 2011, on Feather Evolution.

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New York, NY

May 01 • 
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