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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Bird footed, bird hipped dinosaurs

Emerging from the blur of activity with human skeletons from "Things to do when you're dead" (if you're interested in this, you're too late! Maybe you should have subscribed to news at Dying for Life), I can confess to having spent ages this month actually thinking about dinosaurs.

This isn't because ITV2 just showed Jurassic World (again). Though it was nice to be reminded of Chris Pratt's zookeeping prowess of velociraptors... by jumping in front of them with his arms out.

Chris Pratt showing how zookeeping is done with velociraptors

Which lead to some wonderful spoofs of this as a meme by actual zookeepers (see a few examples here), but my favourite today is this one.

Controlling dinosaurs with a power stance by a baby

Of course, this was not the only issue with the film, as it is just this week being voted as "best worst example of not science in films" on Facebook for "biologist with a twist" , but also see this review of Everything Wrong with Jurassic World in 15 minutes or less.)

And, of course, it was a lovely reminder of the how many of the featured creatures were not:

  1. dinosaurs (e.g. all the pterosaurs, and the mosasaur)

  2. from the Jurassic (e.g. T.Rex, Triceratops are both Late Cretaceous)

  3. (yes, I am in danger of becoming as nerdish about dinosaurs as an average 7 year old)

But (and I am getting to the point here), this month, I was mostly interested in how and when birds evolved from dinosaurs, as well as other creatures that emerged from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. So, I researched a lot of academic papers, checked wikipedia, and cross referenced them with a recent picture encyclopedia aimed at 7 year olds (a touch more modern than Louis Figuier), and started sketching.

Imagine how simple I thought it was going to be when I found that almost as soon as dinosaurs evolved, the "Bird-hipped" (Ornithiscian) Dinosaurs split from the "Lizard-hipped" (Sauriscian) Dinosaurs!

And... from the "Bird-Hipped", came the "Bird-Footed, Bird-Hipped" (Ornithopod, Ornithiscian) dinosaurs.

And that family includes the lovely, late Cretaceous dinosaur, Triceratops!


Except, no.

Dinosaur hip shapes - bird-hipped line up the pubis and ischium

It's never that simple is it?

Birds, evolved from the Lizard-hipped side of the evolution tree. Because #wellfuckyou.

Just as the big, flightless ratites isolated on the southern continents that drifted apart actually turned out to have FLOWN there, from the NORTH (full story here), the birds come from the lizard-hipped dinosaurs!

See my extremely scientific and well researched summary drawing below.

Evolution of dinosaurs

There's a whole bunch more complications in here - I'm still getting my head around the fact that the Triassic barely featured dinosaurs, and why the (not-dinosaurs) ichthyosaurs lost out to the Mosasaur. And the whole "Diapsid/Synapsid" split of evolution. (There is a very incomplete board of information in the Zoology Museum, which I understand just a little more now. And the new reptile display coming in June promises to elucidate this a bit more.)

But, I have made a more colourful summary of animals of the Mesozoic era. And there's the birds, sneaking out between the Velociraptor and T. rex, near the top in purple, whilst the bird-hipped, bird-footed Triceratops is down in the green area.

Evolution in the Mesozoic era summary diagram

Watch this space for more bird evolution, and reptiles! And Synapsid therapsids that rules the Permian - like Dimetrodon, and other close mammal cousins (Dimetrodon is NOT a dinosaur! Whereas birds really ARE dinosaurs!)

Eventually, I will be able to answer the easy questions from the enthusiastic 7 year olds.

Including the question "what is your favourite dinosaur?"

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