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Re: Origin of Birds

As I understand it, cladistics are based on the synapomorphies (shared
derived traits) between animals, inherited from common ancestors.  Cladists
don't necessarily concern themselves with precisely who begat whom.  How
could we determine whether some theropods descended directly from other
non-avian theropods or were secondarily flightless descendants of flying
forms?  In other words, how might we determine the likely anatomy or
identity of the aforementioned common ancestor?  I suppose the jury will be
out until more fossil evidence comes in, but, in that event, precisely what
evidence would we need to settle the matter (assuming that we could set
aside our biases)?

Ralph Miller III <gbabcock@best.com>