Four Wings = Super Chicken?

Posted by admin on October 18, 2013  |   No Comments »

Feathered Dinosaur

Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Figuring out how present-day species evolved is not chicken feed. It’s lots of digging–literally and figuratively–through museum specimens, published work, and new finds. New technologies give us tools to figure out who is related to whom. Nevertheless, many questions about bird evolution remain. The idea I was not prepared for was that progenitors of birds had four wings.

This blog posting from Greg Laden blew my mind. I’d never heard of or imagined four-winged birds. Laden’s blog unearthed a long-suppressed cartoon theme song, “Call for Super Chicken.” After all, wouldn’t a bird with four wings be “super?”

The trouble with a great blog post is that it creates a need to know more. Who knew an early “bird” flew like a biplane? Turns out that Ed Yong did. He crafted a consumable version of a paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, including an idealized picture of the four-winger for our friends at National Geographic.

By the way, I’m excited to have discovered Greg Laden, evolutionary biologist. After all, anyone who’s seen a bird eat a monkey in the wild is cool in my book. And I’ll be following Ed Yong’s writing too.

What evolutionary pathways make your wings quiver? Discuss.

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