Does this Genetically modified bird look like a shrunken dinosaur?
Perhaps not, but when we talk about dinosaurs, most of us think of giant terrible beasties of huge proportions. As the article below suggests, most of the bird-like dinosaurs were rather small to begin with, but shrunk fairly rapidly when the need was most urgent.
I have to admit that I didn’t really buy into the whole dino to bird story before. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to believe it. It was more a case that the evidence wasn’t strong enough in my opinion with birds being warm-blooded and having fundamentally different breathing systems etc. Now that I have investigated this matter further and examined the evidence quite thoroughly, and by applying some of the principles and mechanisms I’ve discovered along the way, it is beginning to look like there is a relationship afterall. However, not in quite the simplistic linear way we might think. As discussed many times on these blogs, between all the hybridization, Horizontal Gene Transfer and symbiosis – basically, the multitude of ways organisms have always exchanged genes across whole domains of life, makes our family tree rather web-like.
Therefore, as discussed on other blogs on this site, it may be more of a common ancestral CONDITION, not necessarily an actual common ancestor. Going instead, from the primitive ancestral condition to increasingly specialized forms at all complexities of life. Furthermore, one of the mechanisms for achieving change in organisms (that doesn’t necessarily require a direct genetic lineage back to a common ancestor) and therefore, speciation, is via nature’s natural built-in epigenetic mechanism for adapting organisms, particularly in their more primitive evolutionary development stage, to meet the needs of changing environments. This is what Shapiro refers to as natural genetic engineering that can rapidly adapt a species by remodeling its genome to meet environmental demands (jumping genes – TEs or transposable mobile elements – see McClintock for more information).Then there is all that turning genes off or on via epigenetic processes that change the expression of genes without changing the code itself, which makes quite a large difference to how a species evolves and looks like in the end. Hence, we are all similarly coded, but how environmental factors ultimately orchestrate how these genes behave, (epgenetic mechanisms – above the genome) is what can make a radical difference to what a species looks like in the end. Yes, environmental signals, picked up by the cells and, as we are a collection of highly organized multi-cellular life forms (as are all other animals and even plants), it is not therefore, surprizing, that we have a rather strange and convoluted evolutionary story compared to the one we thought was the case. And as you can perhaps begin to see, it is nothing like anyone could have possibly imagined.
Our current model of evolution (Darwinian) simply, is not supported by the new evidence. It is not the simplistic linear idea of branching lineages from a common ancestor. Therefore the idea that some smallish fuzzy dinos took flight and became birds is not quite what I’m proposing here, but the fact that a dramatic evolutionary change could occur via genome remodeling, rather rapidly and quite radically, along the lines of the natural genetic engineering via adaptation to a massively changing environment, is not in the realms of impossibility.
So now onto the article itself, which as you can imagine does not say any of what I’ve just said above, as most of this revolutionary evolutionary thinking has not filtered down to the mass-media outlets yet. I wonder why? But, it is interesting to read the article below with all of the above in mind. As many of you know having read previous blogs, all of the principles and processes noted above are empirically testable processes and this new thinking in evolution is itself an evolving paradigm shift in our current biological evolutionary thinking.
The article states the following:
“Birds out-shrank and out-evolved their dinosaurian ancestors, surviving where their larger, less evolvable relatives could not,” said study lead author Dr Michael Lee of the University of Adelaide and South Australian Museum.
Dr Darren Naish of the University of Southampton, UK, a co-author on the study, added: “these bird ancestors also evolved new adaptations, such as feathers, wishbones and wings, four times faster than other dinosaurs.”
Dr Lee, Dr Naish and their colleagues examined 1,549 anatomical traits of dinosaurs to reconstruct their detailed family tree. It shows that the miniaturization of theropod dinosaurs started about 50 million years before the earliest known birds lived.
“The dinosaurs most closely related to birds are all small, and many of them – such as Microraptor – had some ability to climb and glide,” said senior author Dr Gareth Dyke of the University of Southampton.
“Birds evolved through a unique phase of sustained miniaturization in dinosaurs. Being smaller and lighter in the land of giants, with rapidly evolving anatomical adaptations, provided these bird ancestors with new ecological opportunities, such as the ability to climb trees, glide and fly,” Dr Lee said.
“Ultimately, this evolutionary flexibility helped birds survive the meteorite impact which killed off all their dinosaurian cousins.”
Here is an interesting link to an article in Nature about hollow bones and evidence for similar breathing system in Dinosaurs and birds.