by Ankar Chatterjee
Beautifully illustrated by Michael W. Nickell, this book will be of interest to a broad range of readers, including vertebrate paleontologists, ornithologists, and amateur naturalists, including birders.
Dinosaurs are so popular that we often neglect their flying relatives that are still among us. Birds, the true “living dinosaurs, ” deserve considerable respect as successful vertebrates that have evolved, adapted, and survived over a period of 225 million years. The Rise of Birds is the first detailed, illustrated, and comprehensive review of the fossil record of birds in a modern phylogenetic context. Distinguished paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee provides a clear and exciting chronology documenting the long odyssey of birds since Protoavis, which may have taken to the air some 75 million years before the widely known “first bird, ” Archaeopteryx. The remains of Protoavis are preserved in a still controversial fossil found by Chatterjee and his students in Texas in 1983.
Throughout The Rise of Birds, Chatterjee offers a wealth of fascinating details from the colorful history of birds past and present. Among them:
- Some intelligent theropods such as dromaeosaurs were arboreal and could climb trees using their swivel wrist joint and stiff tail. They were capable of parachuting and gliding from tree to ground.
- The discovery of downy theropod dinosaurs from China indicates that upper jaw mobiliity, not feathers, is the most distinctive characteristic of birds.
- Most birds were wiped out 65 million years ago, along with the dinosaurs, by large meteoritic impacts. However, a few lineages of birds rebounded from this catastrophe and underwent an explosive evolution.
The Rise of Birds discusses the significance of all the many recently discovered bird and possible bird fossils, from Europe to China to Latin America. Chatterjee outlines the varying theories of how animal flight developed, and he explains, in terms of comparative anatomy, what makes a bird a bird.
Chapter 1. From Protoavis to Pigeon
Chapter 2. The Design of an Airframe
Chapter 3. The Triassic Treasures of Texas
Chapter 4. A Portrait of Protoavis
Chapter 5. The Jurassic Birds
Chapter 6. The Birds of the Early Cretaceous Period
Chapter 7. The Birds of the Late Cretaceous Period
Chapter 8. Eggs and Embryos, Feathers and Footprints
Chapter 9. The Origin of Flight
Chapter 10. The Genesis of Birds
Chapter 11. The Cretaceous Crisis
Chapter 12. Recovery during the Tertiary Period
Chapter 13. Birds and Humans