Dinosaurs still exist in the form of birds, according to a new study by Harvard scientists, which shows the skeletons of birds are closely related to the prehistoric giants.
Arkhat Abzhanov, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, has noted that there is an apparent resemblance between the skulls of juvenile dinosaurs and those of adult birds, and has done a more comprehensive study to see if the two are more closely related than scientists previously thought, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Abzhanov stated, according to the L.A. Times that:
“We examined skulls form the entire lineage that gave rise to modern birds. We looked back approximately 250 million years, to the Archosaurs, the group which gave rise to crocodiles and alligators as well as modern birds. Our goal was to look at these skulls to see how they changed, and try to understand exactly what happened during the evolution of the bird skull.”
The evolutionary biologist, along with graduate student Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, studied the skulls of dozens of adult birds, theropods (the dinosaurs which are more closely related to birds) and also earlier dinosaur species.
The L.A. Times reports that they were able to track how the skull shapes changed over the years through identifying various landmarks on the skulls.
Business Insider also reports that Abzhanov stated in a press release:
“By changing the developmental biology in early species, nature has produced the modern bird – an entirely new creature – and one that, with approximately 10,000 species, is today the most successful group of land vertebrates on the planet.”
Mid Day reports that Bhullar stated of the study that:
“While it’s clear simply from looking at the skulls of dinosaurs and modern birds that the two creatures are vastly different – dinosaurs have distinctively long snouts and mouths bristling with teeth, while birds have proportionally larger eyes and brains – it was the realization that skulls of modern birds and juvenile dinosaurs show a surprising degree of similarity that sparked the study. No one had told the big story of the evolution of the bird head before.”
The L.A. Times further reports that Abzhanov concluded:
“We can see that the adults of a species look increasingly like the juveniles of their ancestors. When we look at birds, we are actually looking at juvenile dinosaurs.”
[Image courtesy of The L.A. Times]