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Early birds could achieve liftoff

Gliding from trees wasn’t necessary for flight evolution, analysis suggests

1:43pm, October 28, 2016

UP, UP AND AWAY  The four-winged dinosaur Microraptor (illustrated) could launch itself into the air and didn’t need to glide from tree to tree, a new fossil analysis suggests.

SALT LAKE CITY — Flying dinosaurs took off from the ground — no leap from the trees required.

Ancient birds and some nonavian dinosaurs used their wings and powerful legs to launch themselves into the air, a new analysis of 51 winged dinos suggests. Paleontologist Michael Habib of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles reported the findings October 26 at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“That’s a big deal, because the classic idea was that early birds started out gliding between trees,” says Yale ornithologist Michael Hanson.

The origin of flight in birds is a sticky subject, says paleontologist Corwin Sullivan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. “There’s been a long-standing controversy over whether flight evolved from the ground up or the trees down.”


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