Powered flight potential approached by wide range of close avian relatives but achieved selectively
Evolution of birds from non-flying theropod dinosaurs is a classic evolutionary transition, but a deeper understanding of early flight has been frustrated by disagreement on the relationships between birds (Avialae) and their closest theropod relatives. We address this through a larger, more resolved evolutionary hypothesis produced by a novel automated analysis pipeline tailored for large morphological datasets. We corroborate the grouping of dromaeosaurids + troodontids (Deinonychosauria) as the sister taxon to birds (Paraves), as well as the recovery of Anchiornithidae as basalmost avialans. Using these phylogenetic results and available data for vaned feathered paravians, maximum and minimum estimates of wing loading and specific lift calculated using ancestral state reconstruction analysis are used as proxies for the potential for powered flight through this transition. We found a broad range of paravian ancestors with estimates approaching values that are indicative of powered flight potential. This suggests that prior to the evolution of flight there was a wider extent of experimentation with wing-assisted locomotion among paravians than previously appreciated. We recovered wing loading and specific lift estimates indicating the potential for powered flight among fossil birds as well as unenlagiine and microraptorine dromaeosaurids. In the context of our phylogeny and of Mesozoic palaeogeography, our results suggest that the potential for powered flight originated three or more times from a broad range of ancestors already nearing this potential, providing a well-supported scenario for the origin of theropod flight to further explore. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
- Downloaded 1,388 times
- Download rankings, all-time:
- Site-wide: 16,205
- In paleontology: 27
- Year to date:
- Site-wide: 48,028
- Since beginning of last month:
- Site-wide: 31,850
Downloads over time
Distribution of downloads per paper, site-wide
- 27 Nov 2020: The website and API now include results pulled from medRxiv as well as bioRxiv.
- 18 Dec 2019: We're pleased to announce PanLingua, a new tool that enables you to search for machine-translated bioRxiv preprints using more than 100 different languages.
- 21 May 2019: PLOS Biology has published a community page about Rxivist.org and its design.
- 10 May 2019: The paper analyzing the Rxivist dataset has been published at eLife.
- 1 Mar 2019: We now have summary statistics about bioRxiv downloads and submissions.
- 8 Feb 2019: Data from Altmetric is now available on the Rxivist details page for every preprint. Look for the "donut" under the download metrics.
- 30 Jan 2019: preLights has featured the Rxivist preprint and written about our findings.
- 22 Jan 2019: Nature just published an article about Rxivist and our data.
- 13 Jan 2019: The Rxivist preprint is live!