Origins of flight in dinosaur genome
8 March 2007
A study of dinosaur genomes, published today in Nature, reveals that remarkably small genomes may have allowed the first birds to fly.
The study, which was partly funded by NERC, found that the dinosaur group that gave rise to birds probably had small, 'bird sized' genomes and that reduction in genome size may be the reason that the animals were able to take flight.
Professor Mark Pagel and colleagues used a combination of tissue analysis and advanced statistical techniques to estimate the genome sizes of 31 species of extinct dinosaur. The results suggest that the small genomes typically associated with flight in birds evolved in saurischian dinosaurs - the dinosaur group from which birds are the only surviving members.
Copies of the full paper can be obtained from the NERC press office.
NERC Press Office
Natural Environment Research Council
Polaris House, North Star Avenue
Swindon, SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411561
Mob: 07917 557215
Professor Mark Pagel
Professor of Evolutionary Biology
University of Reading
Tel: 0118 931 8900
Briefing note: 06/07
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