Today’s birds evolved from dinosaurs, which makes them dinosaurs! The same way bats are mammals, birds are a strange type of dinosaur that got small, evolved wings and developed the ability to fly.
Birds evolved from ‘raptor’ dinosaurs – the Velociraptor family. The oldest fossil of a true bird, defined as a dinosaur that could fly by flapping its wings, is Archaeopteryx, which lived about 150 million years ago in the Late Jurassic.
But because close ‘raptor’ cousins of birds are known from earlier in the Jurassic, it’s likely birds first took to the skies around 170 million years ago.
- Why were birds the only dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction?
- What would dinosaurs have tasted like?
- Would dinosaurs have gotten even bigger if they weren’t wiped out?
- What did dinosaurs evolve from?
Asked by: Emily Brown, Nottingham
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Steve is a professor and palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh and the author of the book The Rise And Reign Of The Mammals (£20, Picador), a 325-million-year odyssey of mammalian evolution and the people who study mammal fossils.