News & AnalysisPaleontology

Dramatic Fossils Suggest Early Birds Were Biplanes

Science  15 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6125, pp. 1261
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6125.1261

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Summary

When the Wright brothers took to the skies from Kitty Hawk in December 1903, they did it in a biplane, a craft with two pairs of parallel wings. Most early aircraft were biplanes, but by the 1930s, the faster monoplane design, with just two wings, dominated aviation. On page 1309, a Chinese team presents dramatic new fossils suggesting that early birds went through a similar evolution, starting off with wings on both arms and legs and only later adopting the arms-only, monoplane configuration.