Birds come in astounding variety—from hummingbirds to emus—and behave in myriad ways: they soar the skies, swim the waters and forage the forests. But this wasn’t always the case, according to research by scientists at the University of Chicago and the Field Museum.
The researchers found a striking lack of diversity in the earliest known fossil bird fauna—a set of species that lived at about the same time and in the same habitat. “There were no swans, no swallows, no herons, nothing like that. They were pretty much all between a sparrow and a crow,” said Jonathan Mitchell, a PhD student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the new study, published May 28 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (more…)