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BIRD FOSSILS AND EVOLUTION

Birds probably evolved from the dinosaurs.

Bird fossils are rare because bird bones are hollow and fragile, but Jurassic, Cretaceous, Eocene and Miocene-Pliocene bird fossils have been found.

The Archaeopteryx is the oldest known fossil bird, now extinct. It dates from about 150 million years ago during the late Jurassic period. Although Archaeopteryx had feathers and may have been able to fly, it had similarities to dinosaurs, including its teeth, skull, and certain bone structures.

The first Archaeopteryx fossilized feather impression was found in 1860 in a limestone quarry in Germany. A year later, a much more complete fossilized Archaeopteryx was found at the same quarry. Impressions of its feathers and bone structure were quite clear. More have been found since.

In 1868, Thomas Henry Huxley interpreted the Archaeopteryx fossil to be a transitional bird having many reptilian features. Along with Compsognathus, a bird-sized and bird-like dinosaur, Huxley argued that birds and reptiles were descended from common ancestors. Decades later, Huxley's ideas fell out of favor, only to be reconsidered over a century later (after much research and ado) in the 1970s.

Extinction and Decline
Many birds have become extinct because of competition for habitat and food, predators, exposure to harmful chemicals, etc. Birds as a group have been in a gradual decline since they reached a peak about a quarter to a half a million years ago.


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