Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientist says ostrich study confirms bird ’hands’ unlike those of dinosaurs

15.08.2002


To make an omelet, you need to break some eggs. Not nearly so well known is that breaking eggs also can lead to new information about the evolution of birds and dinosaurs, a topic of hot debate among leading biologists.



Drs. Alan Feduccia and Julie Nowicki of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have done just that. They opened a series of live ostrich eggs at various stages of development and found what they believe is proof that birds could not have descended from dinosaurs. They also discovered the first concrete evidence of a thumb in birds.

"Whatever the ancestor of birds was, it must have had five fingers, not the three-fingered hand of theropod dinosaurs," Feduccia said. "Scientists agree that dinosaurs developed ’hands’ with digits one, two and three -- which are the same as the thumb, index and middle fingers of humans -- because digits four and five remain as vestiges or tiny bumps on early dinosaur skeletons. Apparently many dinosaurs developed very specialized, almost unique ’hands’ for grasping and raking. "Our studies of ostrich embryos, however, showed conclusively that in birds, only digits two, three and four, which correspond to the human index, middle and ring fingers, develop, and we have pictures to prove it," said Feduccia, professor and former chair of biology at UNC. "This creates a new problem for those who insist that dinosaurs were ancestors of modern birds. How can a bird hand, for example, with digits two, three and four evolve from a dinosaur hand that has only digits one, two and three? That would be almost impossible."


A report on their investigations will appear online in the August issue of Naturwissenschaften, the top German biology journal, and soon afterwards in the print edition.

The new work involved microscopic examination of early skeletal development in ostrich embryos, he said. Nowicki, who received her doctorate in biology at UNC last year, and he found the critical period for major features of the skeletons of primitive birds like ostriches to appear occurred between days 8 and 15 of those birds’ 42-day growth inside eggs.

The beginnings of arm bones and "fingers" begin to appear around day 8, Feduccia said. Those that would grow into the animals’ thumbs, however, appear around day 14 and later disappear by about day 17.

"Because most such studies in birds have relied on embryos in the second half of development, usually at or near hatching, these studies have therefore used embryos that exhibit the form of fully developed chicks and have generated misleading results," he said. "Questions about development of bird hands were first addressed in 1821 by the famous German physician and anatomist Johann Friedrich Meckel for whom the cartilage of the lower jaw was named. But no one has produced convincing evidence for a thumb before. For us, this is very exciting."

The UNC evolutionary biologist has been a strong critic of the belief that dinosaurs gave rise to birds as some paleontologists have claimed since the 1970s. He also has been a major figure in the debate for 30 years.

"There are insurmountable problems with that theory," he said. "Beyond what we have just reported, there is the time problem in that superficially bird-like dinosaurs occurred some 25 million to 80 million years after the earliest known bird, which is 150 million years old."

Most of the bird-like dinosaurs were "looking at the meteor some 65 million years ago," he said, a reference to the giant meteor believed to have struck the Earth then and killed off all dinosaurs within a short time.

If one views a chicken skeleton and a dinosaur skeleton through binoculars they appear similar, but close and detailed examination reveals many differences, Feduccia said. Theropod dinosaurs, for example, had curved, serrated teeth, but the earliest birds had straight, unserrated peg-like teeth. They also had a different method of tooth implantation and replacement.

Findings from careful examinations of alligator and turtle embryos were consistent with those of birds, the scientist added.

Far more likely is that birds and dinosaurs had a much older common ancestor, he said. Many superficial similarities between birds and dinosaurs arose because both groups developed body designs for walking upright on two hind legs and began to resemble each other over millions of years. "It is now clear that the origin of birds is a much more complicated question than has been previously thought," Feduccia said.


###
Note: Feduccia can be reached at (252)-438-6545 (late mornings or late afternoons) Aug. 15th and 16th. Next week: (919)962-3050; home: 919-942-3377 or feduccia@bio.unc.edu for a photograph of the. embryo.

By DAVID WILLIAMSON
UNC News Services

Deb Saine | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals
23.08.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Treating arthritis with algae
23.08.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>