No. 78: Nov-Dec 1991
A. Feduccia: "Calling this the original bird is irresponsible." (1)
J.H. Ostrom: "Sad to say, for all its length, little support for the claim is to be found in this paper." (2)
J. Gauthier: While some of the bones appear bird-like, they also look dinosaurian and could represent a new type of theropod dinosaur. (3)
For his part, Chjatterjee asserts that Protoavis' skull has 23 features that are fundamentally bird-like, as are the forelimbs, the shoulders, and the hip girdle.
"His reconstruction also shows a flexible neck, large brain, binocular vision, and, crucially, portals running from the rear of the skull to the eye socket -- a feature seen in modern birds but not dinosaurs." (1)
Just why is there so much fuss over a handful of poorly preserved bones? If Protoavis is really a bird, it places the origin of birds 75 million years earlier and dethrones Archaeopteryx as a tran sitional link between dinosaurs and birds. In fact, Protoavis essentially denies that birds evolved from the dinosaurs. In short, Protoavis could change a limb or two on that Tree of Life you see in all the textbooks.
1. Anderson, Alun; "Early Bird Threatens Archaeopteryx's Perch," Science, 253:35, 1991.
2. Ostrom, John H.; "The Bird in the Bush," Nature, 353:212, 1991.
3. Monastersky, Richard; "The Lonely Bird," Science News, 140:104, 1991.