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New Perspectives on the Ontogeny and Evolution of Avian Locomotion.

June 30 , 2016

Close correspondence between form and function is a central tenet of natural selection. One of the most striking, textbook cases for form–function congruence is the evolution of flight and the body plan of birds: compared with other tetrapods, extant adult birds have highly modified integuments and skeletons, and it has traditionally been assumed that many of these modifications are adaptations or exaptations for flight. However, developing birds that lack many of the morphological signatures of flight capacity nevertheless use their developing wings for a variety of flapping behaviors, such as wing-assisted incline running and even brief flight. Immature birds thereby demonstrate that rudimentary “flight” apparatuses are more functional than traditional assumptions about form–function relationships would predict. Here, I review the ontogeny of avian locomotion, highlighting how the developmental acquisition of flight in extant birds can improve our understanding of form–function relationships in the avian body plan, and provide insight into the evolutionary origin of flight among extinct non-avian theropod dinosaurs.

Ashley M. Heers (2016)
New Perspectives on the Ontogeny and Evolution of Avian Locomotion.
Integrative and Comparative Biology (advance online publication)



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