What?! Is this even possible?? We’re living among Dinosaurs we never knew about???
Just kidding. The concept of ‘living dinosaurs’ has often been a controversial topic for scientists, trying to figure our the reason why they all extincted at one moment.
Turns out the thesis above was postulated in an erroneous way. First of all, some species of dinosaurs extincted even before the birth of the T-Rex. Secondly, you never know, what if we ARE living among them currently… let’s try to prove this assumption’s authenticity.
Here we go!
STATEMENTS GO FIRST
Birds are dinosaurs. We’ve all heard this. But does that phrase make any sense?
Not really. Dinosaurs, for the most part, are things that were really big, were mostly scaly, had fantastic teeth, and are extinct. Birds, on the other hand, don’t have teeth, are generally small, and are covered in feathers (I know that you know that lots of old school dinosaurs had feathers too, but whatever).
So, why do we say that birds are dinosaurs?
The answer involves evolution and the meaning of taxonomic names in biology.
Let’s start with what the name of a group should mean. Why would we call one group of animals ‘birds’ and another group of animals ‘dinosaurs’?
Presumably all the animals called ‘birds’ should have more in common with each other than they do with the animals in the group called ‘dinosaurs’.
Now we could categorize things based on any attribute we want. We could sort all orange animals into a group and call that group ‘tacos’, but I don’t know how useful that would be…
Biologists have decided that what taxonomic names should represent is shared evolution, or relatedness. With that in mind, what the group Dinosauria should contain is all animals that are evolutionarily more closely related to each other than they are to non-dinosaurs.
Let’s examine this chart:
Birds are in the circle because they are in the group Dinosauria.
But do they really belong?
Well yes, actually they do. If you know how to read the diagram correctly it says that the pelican and the T. rex are the two most closely related animals depicted. Triceratops is the next most closely related animal to those two. Did you catch that? T. rex and the pelican are more closely related to each other than T. rex is to Triceratops. They are both in the group Theropoda (that Triceratops isn’t part of). The T. rex and the pelican have been on the same evolutionary path for longer than any other two things on this diagram. Here I’ll show you the same information diagramed slightly differently.
Bird are dinosaurs not just because they evolved from dinosaurs, but because they are more closely related to some of the extinct dinosaurs than those dinosaurs are to each other!
So next time that someone tells you that dinosaurs are extinct, you can tell them that, actually, there are probably more species of dinosaur alive today than there were in the Mesozoic!
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