Interesting article at TPM this morning summarizing the results of a massive study of bird genomes. Starting at the beginning:
|Reconstruction of Iberomesornis romerali|
Very early in the lineages leading to about 95 percent of today's birds, the researchers propose that a split happened some 68 million to 69 million years ago. One branch leads to doves, flamingoes and a few other species, while the other branch leads to basically everything else. That implies, for example, that flamingoes are more closely related to pigeons than they are to pelicans or other water birds.
A second split followed soon after, so that the resulting four lineages faced and survived the brutal extinction some 66 million years ago that's most famous for wiping out the dinosaurs, said Erich Jarvis of Duke University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a lead author of the work.
I have to admit that birds fascinate me -- not that I'm about to become a bird-watcher, in the traditional sense. I just enjoy watching what they do and puzzling over their behavior, which is, as often as not, opaque. Maybe it's just that they are what's left of the dinosaurs, and who expects to understand why a dinosaur does what it does?
For some basic information on the evolution of birds, there's always Wikipedia.