Mesozoic Birds


Mesozoic birds are those birds that lived between 150 and 65 million years ago, during the last half of the age of large dinosaurs. During this 85 million years of known history, the Mesozoic birds evolved a wide range of basic body forms and lifestyles.

Keywords: birds; mesozoic; diversity; distribution; genealogy

Figure 1.

Genealogical relationships among the main groups of primitive birds. Segments in red represent the span of time for which each of these groups is recorded in the fossil record. The arrow in Ornithuromorpha indicates that the fossil record of these birds extends into the Cenozoic era: all living birds are classified within the Ornithuromorpha.

Figure 2.

(a) The archaeopterygid Archaeopteryx lithographica from the Late Jurassic of Germany. (b) The confuciusornithid Confuciusornis sanctus from the Late Jurassic–earliest Cretaceous of China. (c) The alvarezsaurid Shuvuuia deserti from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia. (d) The enantiornithomorph Cathayornis yandica from the Early Cretaceous of China.

Figure 3.

Stratigraphic and geographic distribution of the main groups of primitive birds. Note the relative deficiency of the fossil record of primitive birds from the southern hemisphere as compared to that of the northern hemisphere.


Further Reading

Chiappe LM (1995) The first 85 million years of avian evolution. Nature 378: 349–355.

Chiappe LM (1995) A diversity of early birds. Natural History 104(6): 52–55.

Currie P and Padian K (1997) The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs. New York: Academic Press.

Padian K and Chiappe LM (1998) The early evolution of birds. Biological Reviews 73(1): 1–42.

Padian K and Chiappe LM (1998) The origin of birds and their flight. Scientific American February: 28–37.

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How to Cite close
Chiappe, Luis M(Apr 2001) Mesozoic Birds. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001549]