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Discovery raises new doubts about dinosaur-bird links
Date:6/9/2009

However, every other animal that has walked on land, the scientists said, has a moveable thigh bone that is involved in their motion including humans, elephants, dogs, lizards and in the ancient past dinosaurs.

The implication, the researchers said, is that birds almost certainly did not descend from theropod dinosaurs, such as tyrannosaurus or allosaurus. The findings add to a growing body of evidence in the past two decades that challenge some of the most widely-held beliefs about animal evolution.

"For one thing, birds are found earlier in the fossil record than the dinosaurs they are supposed to have descended from," Ruben said. "That's a pretty serious problem, and there are other inconsistencies with the bird-from-dinosaur theories.

"But one of the primary reasons many scientists kept pointing to birds as having descended from dinosaurs was similarities in their lungs," Ruben said. "However, theropod dinosaurs had a moving femur and therefore could not have had a lung that worked like that in birds. Their abdominal air sac, if they had one, would have collapsed. That undercuts a critical piece of supporting evidence for the dinosaur-bird link.

"A velociraptor did not just sprout feathers at some point and fly off into the sunset," Ruben said.

The newest findings, the researchers said, are more consistent with birds having evolved separately from dinosaurs and developing their own unique characteristics, including feathers, wings and a unique lung and locomotion system.

There are some similarities between birds and dinosaurs, and it is possible, they said, that birds and dinosaurs may have shared a common ancestor, such as the small, reptilian "thecodonts," which may then have evolved on separate evolutionary paths into birds, crocodiles and dinosaurs. The lung structure and physiology of crocodiles, in fact, is much more similar to dinosaurs than it is to birds.

"We aren't suggesting that dinosa
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Contact: John Ruben
rubenj@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-5347
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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