ON THE TRAIL OF EARLY BIRDS: A REVIEW OF THE FOSSIL FOOTPRINT RECORD OF AVIAN MORPHOLOGICAL AND BEHAVIORAL EVOLUTION
Authors: Martin G. Lockley and Jerald D. Harris
Abstract: Fossil footprints provide important evidence regarding the morphology, behavior, distribution, and ecology of ancient animals. In recent years, the ichnological record (pertaining to fossils other than skeletal or body parts, most familiarly and commonly tracks) of major tetrapod clades has been studied intensively. The body fossil record amply demonstrates that the origin of birds lies within the theropod dinosaur lineage (making birds extant dinosaurs, in an evolutionary sense), but the ichnological record contributes much valuable information concerning behavioral shifts during both this evolutionary transition and the early diversification of birds. Here, for the first time, we review the entire avian track record, including its specialized ichnotaxonomy, from the Mesozoic (the “Age of Reptiles,” 250-65 million years ago) and Cenozoic (the “Age of Mammals and Birds,” 65 million years ago through the present, including the Holocene) and consider how the evidence impacts the understanding of avian evolution and ecology.
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