Romancing the Birds and Dinosaurs

Forays in Postmodern Paleontology

by Alan Feduccia, Ph.D.

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Author website: http://bio.unc.edu/people/faculty/feduccia/
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Synopsis

Birds and dinosaurs have dominated human interest for decades. In this well-supported revolutionary view of the field, critical questions are explored with credible evidence and biological thought. Are birds derived directly from advanced dinosaurs, or are they closely related dinosaur cousins? Did flight originate via the natural "gravity-assisted" trees-down model, or from the improbable “gravity-resisted” ground-up model? Were the earliest birds ground-predators or trunk-climbing gliders? Were dinosaurs hot-blooded with insulating protofeathers, or highly active, cold-blooded reptiles? These are among the questions addressed in this path-breaking book.

Current consensus suggests that early birds were earth-bound and flight began on the ground. Reversing that logic, since birds are hot-blooded, by inference so too were dinosaurs, and extraordinarily complex feathers, flight brain and inner ear, evolved before flight in dinosaurs. The iconic early bird Archaeopteryx, despite innumerable flight and arboreal features, is now displayed as an earth-bound predator that could not fly. In reality, we have yet to provide satisfactory explanations for much of the biological origin and early evolution of birds. Among the questions addressed is whether truly feathered dinosaurs are in reality lost or "hidden birds?" The architectural complexity of feathers leads the author to the conclusion that if an animal has evolved extraordinarily complex, aerodynamically-designed feathers, an avian flight hand, flight membranes, and a flight brain, it's a bird.

Birds and dinosaurs captivate and enchant the human imagination. These intriguing animals have dominated the field of paleontology and evolution for the past half century, engendering heated debate on avian ancestry, the origin of flight and feathers, and the biology of their fossils. Are birds living dinosaurs? In this series of entertainingly contentious and captivating essays evolutionary biologist Alan Feduccia writes with verve and humor to expose major problems in the field and advocate liberation from the shackles of consensus thinking about birds and dinosaurs. He maintains that the euphoria of paleontologists claiming to have solved the major problems of bird evolution is premature, largely generated by the adoption of a rigid, cult-like methodology, heavily blended with ideology, and excluding many biological and geological principles. He adroitly exposes and elucidates major mistakes in the field and their aftermath.

Romancing the Birds and Dinosaurs is a lucid revelation of clarity and synthesis, a fascinating unveiling of the underlying science that has produced the good, but also often appalling fossil research and wild speculation in bird and dinosaur evolution. A must read for anyone interested in this rapidly evolving field, the short, concise and incisive essays provide the reader with access to this complex topic.

REVIEWS and WORDS OF PRAISE

In this strikingly unconventional and brilliant book, Professor Alan Feduccia presents the current status of the recent controversy about the origin of birds with clarity and vigor. A thought-provoking personal exploration of what the bird fossils represent.
---Sankar Chatterjee, Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor of Geosciences and Curator of Paleontology, Texas Tech University.

Feduccia's book eloquently reminds us that consensus science is to be shied away from especially when it is used to plead special cases against basic scientific principles. The concept of “lost birds” is particularly intriguing as it defines what birds are and how special science obfuscates the simplicity of evolution.
---David A. Burnham, Associate Researcher, University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.

Based on a thorough understanding of the empirical evidence, Feduccia presents a convincing account of avian origins from their putative ancestors.
---Walter J. Bock, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Columbia University and Research Associate, American Museum of Natural History.

With candor, clear thinking, humor, and abundant evidence, Alan Feduccia’s Romancing the Birds and Dinosaurs should be mandatory reading for the countless millions who are intrigued by dinosaurs and their relatives, the birds. Feduccia points out the many empirical and logical shortcomings in the stubborn majority view that birds evolved from dinosaurs, an idea now solidly entrenched as dogma in education and popular culture. This new book will be as interesting to those who study human behavior and scientific methods as it will to students of vertebrate evolution.
---David W. Steadman, Curator of Ornithology, Professor of Biology, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida.

About the Author

Evolutionary biologist Alan Feduccia is S. K. Heninger Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where as Chair of Biology he pioneered the UNC Genome Sciences Building, dedicated in 2012. In the mid-1970s he was the first to propose an explosive evolutionary model for birds following the Cretaceous extinction event, now known as bird evolution’s “Big Bang,” and confirmed by whole genome analyses. He was also first to discover a vestigial first digit (thumb) in an avian embryo, a problem dating to the 1820s. Feduccia is the author of eight books, including notably the popular The Age of Birds (Harvard, 1980), and the award-winning The Origin and Evolution of Birds (Yale, 1996,1999), as well as numerous research papers, and is a popular lecturer. In 2014 UNC established the Alan Feduccia Distinguished Professorship.