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Dinosaurs Slowly Evolved Into Birds, Researchers Say

Update Date: Aug 03, 2014 12:03 PM EDT

After 'shrinking and shrinking' for 50 million years, dinosaurs evolved into birds to survive, according to a new study. 

The study examined the family trees of various types of dinosaurs in an effort to determine any patterns in the evolution of the animals. It considered around 1,500 anatomical traits in order to determine the lineage of species. 

Researchers applied advanced mathematical modeling to study how body sizes changed over time and across species. They discovered that Theropods - dinosaurs that were mostly carnivores, unable to fly - were the only variety of the animals that continually evolved into smaller forms. 

"These bird ancestors also evolved new adaptations, such as feathers, wishbones and wings, four times faster than other dinosaurs," Darren Naish, Vertebrate Paleontologist at the University of Southampton, said in the press release. 

"Birds evolved through a unique phase of sustained miniaturisation in dinosaurs," added lead author Associate Professor Michael Lee, from the University of Adelaide's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the South Australian Museum.

"Being smaller and lighter in the land of giants, with rapidly evolving anatomical adaptations, provided these bird ancestors with new ecological opportunities, such as the ability to climb trees, glide and fly. Ultimately, this evolutionary flexibility helped birds survive the deadly meteorite impact which killed off all their dinosaurian cousins."

The related study has been published in the journal Science

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