Information on the first steps of the avian evolutionary history has dramatically increased during the last few years. The fossil record provides a general view of the morphological changes of the avian flight apparatus from nonvolant ancestors (non-avian theropod dinosaurs) to the
first derived fliers of the Early Cretaceous. The Las Hoyas bird record includes three genera: Iberomesornis, Concornis and Eoalulavis. This fossil material has yielded information about the early avian evolutionary history. These Early Cretaceous birds (some 120 Myr old)
had a wingbeat cycle and breathing devices similar to those of extant birds. The function of the rectricial fan was also similar. In the evolutionary transition from cursorial ancestors to derived fliers it is possible to verify a trend to increase lift. Primitive wing aspect ratio morphotypes
were elliptical ones, other derived morphotypes appeared, for example, in the Neornithes (extant birds). Some primitive fliers, like the Las Hoyas genus Eoalulavis, had an alula (feathers attached to the first digit of the hand) similar to that of present day birds, indicating braking
and manoeuvring skills similar to those of their extant relatives. Primitive avian life habits are poorly understood. Some evidence from the Las Hoyas bird record indicates that Early Cretaceous birds were present in the trophic chains.
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avian evolutionary history
Document Type: Research Article
Science Review, PO Box 314, St. Albans, Herts AL1 4ZG, UK
Publication date: 15 May 2002
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