PerspectivePaleontology

Making sense of dinosaurs and birds

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Science  07 May 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6542, pp. 575-576
DOI: 10.1126/science.abi5697

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Summary

Birds are dinosaurs. A couple of decades of revealing finds and careful phylogenetic work have shown that birds are nested within the group of small, mostly predatory, and running dinosaurs that includes dromaeosaurs and troodontids, among others (1). Now, scientists are using that phylogenetic tapestry to trace the evolution of traits such as sensory biology and behavior. Two studies in this issue pair cutting-edge imaging with sophisticated statistical analyses to explore the evolution of the hearing apparatus and other sensory systems. On page 601, Hanson et al. (2) show that the inner ear of dinosaurs, as well as that of other archosaurs (the group that includes crocodilians, dinosaurs, and birds), provides clues to locomotion, hearing, and the evolution of vocalization. On page 610, Choiniere et al. (3) examine the inner ear and also aspects of the visual system to demonstrate the notably owl-like nocturnal adaptations of one group of birdlike dinosaurs.

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