Until recently, most knowledge of the early history of birds and the evolution of their unique specializations was based on just a handful of diverse Mesozoic taxa widely separated in time and restricted to marine environments. Although is still the oldest and only Jurassic bird, a wealth of recent discoveries combined with new phylogenetic analyses have documented the divergence of a number of lineages by the beginning of the Cretaceous. These and younger Cretaceous fossils have filled much of the morphological chasm that existed between and its living counterparts, providing insights into the evolutionary development of feathers and other important features of the avian flight system. Dramatic new perceptions of the life history, growth and development of early birds have also been made possible by the latest data. Although no primitive birds are known to have survived beyond the end of the Cretaceous, the present fossil record provides no evidence for a sudden disappearance. Likewise, a Mesozoic origin for extant birds remains controversial.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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