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Re: Giant Cretaceous flightless bird



>I realize this is a pretty darn uneducated question, but how does one
>determine the status of a fossil such as this giant Cretaceous bird as being
>other than a middlin' sized dinosaur?  (Considering its from the same time
>period, et al).  What are the criteria?
>
>Carolyn
>(The struggling and sometimes embarassingly naive Science Illustration
>Student)

According to the authors of the paper, it's because the vertebrae attached
to the pelvis are fused in a characteristically avian way, which is
distinct from theropod dinosaurs. Dinosaurs had to support a heavy tail,
but birds evolved to be light, and I think the difference stemmed from
that. The trait did not revert back to the original dinosaurian form when
the birds became secondarily flightless. If you want more details, contact
the authors of the paper.

- Jeff Hecht