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FEATURE ARTICLE

Flights of Fancy in Avian Evolution

From mousebirds to terror birds, the class Aves has encompassed a remarkable diversity of species over the past 150 million years.

Daniel T. Ksepka

2014-01KsepkaF2.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageThe birds we see in our backyard represent a tiny sliver of the ecological roles and morphological diversity that birds have shown over their long, 150-million-year history. Over the course of avian evolution, specialized lineages of birds have played the parts of landscape-altering grazers, marine divers, nocturnal hunters, and even terrestrial apex predators. Many of the most unusual species are now extinct; others diversified into the common forms we see today. Daniel Ksepka walks readers through the fossil record of avian evolution, stopping along the way to discuss some of the notable and wacky birds that have lived on Earth.


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