Thursday, August 05, 2004

Bird Braincase

Today's New York Times has this article describing recent work on fossil specimens of Archaeopteryx. Devoted evolution-philes will recall that Archaeopteryx is the fossil possessing mostly reptilian characterisitcs, with the exception of a well-developed set of wings. It is usually given as exhibit A when creationists assert that there are no transitional forms.


Scientists have determined that Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird, was definitely birdbrained, meaning no disrespect. Indeed, they consider the fossil's brain size decisive evidence that Archaeopteryx had what it took to fly.

The new research suggests, moreover, that birds probably started flying millions of years earlier than scientists previously thought. It is just that fossils of those first flying birds - predecessors of Archaeopteryx - have never been found.

The researchers, at the Natural History Museum in London, based their findings on the first X-ray examination and reconstruction of the braincase and inner ear of a 147-million-year-old Archaeopteryx specimen. They found that in size, shape and volume, its brain was similar to that of the modern eagle or sparrow.


I'm not sure if having the same size, shape and volume of a modern eagle or sparrow implies that its brain had the same capabilities as modern birds. Whatever. It sounds like interesting research though.

Anyone want to place bets on how long it takes before the creationists seize on this work as evidence that Archaeopteryx was just a bird, and in no way a transitional form?

4 Comments:

At 7:59 PM, Blogger John Wendt said...

Also at NPR, http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=3817444 and Nature Science Update, http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040802/full/040802-9.html.

Probably not the same capability as modern birds, but likely in the same league.

 
At 8:02 PM, Blogger John Wendt said...

Also, PZ Myers does his usual expert job of summarizing.
http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/bird_brains_of_the_jurassic/

 
At 12:10 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Bets are off; Charlie Wagner already has.

 
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