How did feathers evolve? - Carl Zimmer
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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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