Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More about the secondarily flightless birds (3)

Hesperornithes are Cretaceous Ornithurae. They are an excellent candidate as the ancestor of modern "foot-propelled diving birds".

"Hesperornithes is an extinct and highly specialized clade of Cretaceous toothed birds. Hesperornithine birds, apparently limited to former aquatic habitats in the Northern Hemisphere, include genera such as Hesperornis, Parahesperornis, Baptornis, Enaliornis, and probably Potamornis, all strong-swimming predatory waterbirds. Many, if not all species were completely flightless.
Although some of the smaller species might have been able to fly, Hesperornis and Baptornis had only vestigial wings. Like living foot-propelled diving birds, the femur and metatarsus were short, whereas the tibia was long. The legs were also set far back on the body, as in loons, grebes or penguins. "

One order of Mesozoic seabirds, the Hesperornithiformes, became so well adapted to hunting fish in marine environments that they lost the ability to fly and became primarily aquatic. Despite their extreme specialisations, the Hesperornithiformes represent some of the closest relatives of modern birds.[20]

Note that "some of the smaller species might have been able to fly". 

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