If I ask you when the birds took their first flight, you might just stare at me and say, “Duh! Since forever”. However, nothing is further from the truth. So if, they did not fly always what else did they do? Did they always have wings? What was the need for them to fly if they could run or swim?
Those are some mind boggling question I must say, Shall we dig a bit deeper?
The first evidence suggests that the birds became airborne some 150 million years ago. In 1861, scientists discovered a well-preserved fossil in Germany. The fossil belonged to an animal named Archaeopteryx (pronounced as ar-kee-op-ter-ix). Scientists believe that this animal was capable of full flight. You must be getting confused now, were we talking about birds or animals? You have to remember that 150 million years ago there were no birds, only land roaming animals existed. Birds evolved from animals and the fossil clearly shows the fully developed wings along with a bony tail, arm claws, and sharp teeth. Archaeopteryx probably evolved from carnivorous, two-legged dinosaurs.
Now the question remains why did they feel the need to fly?
In those days the huge dinosaurs roamed on Earth, the smaller, light weight cousins of theirs developed the skill to fly or glide and became the “flying dinosaurs”. Scientists guess that the skill evolved either to fly over fast predators or maybe become the predators themselves.
All this discussion brings us to the most pertinent question, and that is how did they do it?
Ornithologists have always been intrigued by this question. There are two exceptionally strong beliefs that scientists have on this-
- Arboreal(pronounced as ahr-bawr-ee-uh)- suggests that ancestors of Archaeopteryx lived in trees and glided into flapping flight.
- Cursorial(pronounced as kur-sawr-ee-uh) – suggests that ancestors of Archaeopteryx ran and flapped their wings to take a flight.
Nobody knows for sure what actually happened. We won’t know for sure unless a little birdie from the past decides to tell us :)