The Dinosaur-Bird Connection

The Yi Xian deposits in China are revealing the link between Dinosaurs and birds. Never before have we had so many well preserved, complete specimens.

Feathers did not originally evolve for flight; they probably evolved for insulation, display and brooding behaviour. That became even more clear with the discovery of Sinosauropteryx, a theropod dinosaur not directly related to birds but covered with primitive filaments we call “proto-feathers”.

But some Saurischian dinosaurs, including non-flying ones, had modern-looking feathers. Some scientists believe they were also used as devices to assist juvenile or small dinosaurs running upwards to reach the protection of the top of the trees and parachuting back to the ground. The fact is that even famous dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Avimimus had traces of quills in their arm bones, just like any bird.

When we see feathers we also think “colours”, “display” and “communication”. Reptiles and birds are known for their colour vision. The world of the dinosaurs was probably also colourful, although we have very little evidence for it.