New study suggests birds did not evolve from dinosaurs

New study suggests birds did not evolve from dinosaurs
An image drawn in 1915 by naturalist William Beebe suggests a hypothetical view of what early birds may have looked like, gliding down from trees - and it bears a striking similarity to a fossil discovered in 2003 that is raising new doubts about whether birds descended from ground-dwelling theropod dinosaurs. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

CORVALLIS, Ore - For years, science books have said that birds likely evolved from ground-dwelling dinosaurs.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Naitonal Academy of Sciences suggests birds didn't come from dinosaurs and came from feathered gliders instead.

"Clearly dinosaurs are related to birds but probably not in the seemless fashion they have been presented," says John Ruben, a professor of zoology at Oregon State University.

He says there are four main pieces of evidence to prove this:

One: the fingers on birds could never have evolved from the fingers on dinosaurs.

Two: birds breathe differently than dinosaurs did.

Three: birds run differently than dinosaurs did. Birds run from their knee, not their hip.

Four: probably the most crucial piece of evidence is a fossil specimen found in 2003 of a small feathered creature; a glider named the "microraptor."

"If you look at this, it makes much more sense that the ancestor of birds to have been an arboreal animal that lived in trees," he says. "Flight originated from an animal that was gliding."

Ruben says ground-dwelling dinosaurs and gliders probably came from a common ancestor but evolved into two totally different species.

Gliders likely evolved into birds, and dinosaurs went extinct.

While there are characteristics about birds and dinosaurs that are similar, Ruben says there are more differences.

He says despite this recent study, the debate over the origin of birds and the origin of flight is not over.
He says if anything, this will open up room for debate even more.

"There's people whose careers are based on the idea that dinosaurs turned into birds flying out into the sunset," he says. "And if that turns out not to be true there's going to have to be changes."