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I don't really know much about the phylogeny of birds, but I've been
bothered by 1 thing.
Throughout the history of discussions on dinosaur-bird relationships, almost
every person comes to a foregone conclusion that _Archaeopteryx_ is THE
first bird, with all the others (confuciusornithids, enantiornithes,
_Iberomesornis_, _Eoalulavis_, _Shenzouraptor_, _Rahonavis_, etc) all
falling behind it. It puzzles me that almost every cladogram I can think of
relies very heavily on a species that is to date known by just 7
2-dimensional specimens & a single feather (tentatively referred to Archie
I'm very ignorant about all this avian cladistics & stuff, but consider
this: what if we've been wrong all along? could it be that _Archaeopteryx_
was NOT the first bird? What if it was actually an 'aberrant' offshoot that
evolved from maniraptors before the other birds branched off or was actually
more derived than other so-called 'birds'? What if we eventually discover
that 'birds' as we know them may be diphyletic or paraphyletic (unlikely,
but what if we find out that some of the early birds turn out to be one
lineage of dromaeosaurs that evolved more birdlike features?) Does
_Archaeopteryx_ still retain its "first bird" status? Or what if others find
that once & for all, that dromaeosaurs (or troodonts or oviraptorosaurs)
actually evolved after Archaeopteryx split off the maniraptor lineage? Would
that put the dinosaur-bird debate in a whole new perspective?
Somehow every phylogenetic analysis seems to assume that because
_Archaeopteryx_ is the oldest bird discovered to date, it is the Ur-bird
(_Protoavis_ notwithstanding). I think we need people to scrutinise every
feature of _Archaeopteryx_ from every angle, to note every detail, and
compare it with EVERY (and i mean every) other Mesozoic bird species &
I believe the disagreements on coelurosaur & avialan phylogeny will be
around for quite a while, & I do hope that things get resolved as quickly as
possible, but I just wish we had more specimens of _Archaeopteryx_ to give
more solid proof that it is the "First" bird.
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