Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Nearly Birds

Adorable Serikornis sungei by Emily Willoughby
Something I really enjoy about paleontology is how quickly things can change. For example, when I was growing up, Dromaeosauridae was confined to half a dozen genera from two continents. If you wanted a complete list, you could check out Raptors: The Nastiest Dinosaurs from your local library. Now, though, Dromaeosauridae is more like Dromaeosauriformes because there are something like five distinct groups now: Halszkaraptorinae, Unenlaginae, Microraptorinae, Dromaeosaurinae and Velociraptorinae (those last two are usually stuck together in a monophyletic Eudromaeosauria). It used to be that dromaeosaurs came in two flavors: large and small. Now you’ve got swan-necked, duck-billed dromaeosaurs; piscivorous, leggy dromaeosaurs; tiny, potentially volant dromaeosaurs; and larger “classic” predatory dromaeosaurs.

All this has happened in the last twenty years. Heck, nobody knew about Halszkaraptor until a few weeks ago.