Nav: Home

Bird skull evolution slowed after the extinction of the dinosaurs

August 18, 2020

From emus to woodpeckers, modern birds show remarkable diversity in skull shape and size, often hypothesized to be the result of a sudden hastening of evolution following the mass extinction that killed their non-avian dinosaur cousins at the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago. But this is not the case according to a study by Ryan Nicholas Felice at University College London, publishing August 18, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology. In the most detailed study yet of bird skull morphology, Felice and an international team of researchers show that the rate of evolution actually slowed in birds compared to non-avian dinosaurs.

The researchers used high-dimensional 3D geometric morphometrics to map the shape of 354 living and 37 extinct avian and non-avian dinosaurs in unprecedented detail and performed phylogenetic analyses to test for a shift in the pace of evolution after the origin of birds. They found that all regions of the skull evolved more rapidly in non-avian dinosaurs than in birds, but certain regions showed rapid pulses of evolution in particular lineages.

For example, in non-avian dinosaurs, rapid evolutionary changes in the jaw joint were associated with changes in diet, while accelerated evolution of the roof of the skull occurred in lineages that sported bony ornaments such as horns or crests. In birds, the most rapidly evolving part of the skull was the beak, which the authors attribute to adaptation to different food sources and feeding strategies.

The authors say that overall slower pace of evolution in birds compared to non-avian dinosaurs calls into question a long-standing hypothesis that the diversity seen in modern birds resulted from rapid evolution as part of an adaptive radiation following the end-Cretaceous extinction event.
-end-
In your coverage please use these URLs to provide access to the freely available articles in PLOS Biology:http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000801

Citation: Felice RN, Watanabe A, Cuff AR, Hanson M, Bhullar B-AS, Rayfield ER, et al. (2020) Decelerated dinosaur skull evolution with the origin of birds. PLoS Biol 18(8): e3000801. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000801

Funding: This research was funded by European Research Council grant no. STG-2014-637171 (to A.G.) and SYNTHESYS grant no. FR-TAF-5635 (to R.N.F.). M.A.N.'s work was funded by the Macaulay family endowment to the AMNH, and NSF DEB-1457181. L.M.W.'s work was funded by NSF IOS-1050154 and IOS-1456503. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLOS

Related Evolution Articles:

A timeline on the evolution of reptiles
A statistical analysis of that vast database is helping scientists better understand the evolution of these cold-blooded vertebrates by contradicting a widely held theory that major transitions in evolution always happened in big, quick (geologically speaking) bursts, triggered by major environmental shifts.
Looking at evolution's genealogy from home
Evolution leaves its traces in particular in genomes. A team headed by Dr.
How boundaries become bridges in evolution
The mechanisms that make organisms locally fit and those responsible for change are distinct and occur sequentially in evolution.
Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.
Paleontology: Experiments in evolution
A new find from Patagonia sheds light on the evolution of large predatory dinosaurs.
A window into evolution
The C4 cycle supercharges photosynthesis and evolved independently more than 62 times.
Is evolution predictable?
An international team of scientists working with Heliconius butterflies at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama was faced with a mystery: how do pairs of unrelated butterflies from Peru to Costa Rica evolve nearly the same wing-color patterns over and over again?
Predicting evolution
A new method of 're-barcoding' DNA allows scientists to track rapid evolution in yeast.
Insect evolution: Insect evolution
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have shown that the incidence of midge and fly larvae in amber is far higher than previously thought.
Evolution of aesthetic dentistry
One of the main goals of dental treatment is to mimic teeth and design smiles in the most natural and aesthetic manner, based on the individual and specific needs of the patient.
More Evolution News and Evolution Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.