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Re: One for the bird brigade



At 05:12 PM 12/18/98 -0000, John Jackson wrote:

>>What bird still alive today is considered to be the closest kin to
>>Archaepteryx ?
>[snip]

>If all birds are descended from Ax, (and I don't know - maybe I'm the last
>person left in the world who believes this :-) )  then all birds are equally
>closely related to it.

Actually, I think that Archie could very well be the direct ancestor of all
later birds, too.  And you are quite correct: ALL birds, from ostriches to
penguins to hummingbirds, are equally closely related to it.

Now, it is true some birds are less profoundly transformed anatomically than
these, but they aren't any more closely related to Archie.

As for what living bird is least transformed anatomically from the ancestral
neornithine condition, beats me.  Tinamous, maybe?  There is still a big
series of changes between _Archaeopteryx_ and basal neornithines, though.

>But you can tell the person who asked you the
>question, 'the hoatzin'.  It should keep them happy, and will do them no
>harm!

Except to perpetuate the idea that hoatzins are primitive birds, rather than
the highly specialized critters they are!  (And also plant the idea in
peoples' minds that their hand claws are primitive features retained, rather
than reversals, thereby encouraging the false idea that reversals don't
happen in Nature).

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:tholtz@geol.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661