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Computer simulations show evolution of birds’ crouch likely due to increase in forelimb size

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Posted April 25, 2013

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Credit: Concept art by Luis Rey

 An international team of researchers working together to discover how, when and why birds have evolved to stand in a crouching position, have come to the conclusion that it was due much more to the growth of forelimbs than a reduction in size of the tail. The team describes in their paper published in the journal Nature, how they built computer simulations to recreate in a virtual sense, the evolution process that led to the crouching position and possibly the evolution of flight.

For many years, the consensus among those who study dinosaurs was that the crouch seen in modern birds was most likely due to a shift in center of balance as tails grew smaller over time. To find out if this was actually the case, the researchers fed data from several types of dinosaurs (mostly archosaurs), modern birds and their closet living relative, crocodiles, into a computer model. Using that information, they built skeletons and then manually covered them with muscle and skin. The computer was then directed to simulate changes in body structure over millions of years of evolution to see how they impacted the center of gravity of evolving dinosaurs. Surprisingly, they found that it wasn’t slowly diminishing tails that caused the animals to shift their stance, it was the development of larger forelimbs, which of course, over many more millions of years, for some, led to the development of wings.

Read more at: Phys.org

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