Research Topic

Early Avian Evolution

About this Research Topic

Our understanding of Mesozoic birds has expanded and evolved enormously over the past two decades, reflecting important discoveries from around the world. Most recently, information from 99-Ma-old birds trapped in Burmese amber is complementing the wealth of data extracted from Early Cretaceous Lagerstätten in China and Spain. Expanding knowledge of early avian morphological diversity, combined with inferences derived from exceptionally preserved soft tissues, is rapidly changing our perception of stem avians, revealing unexpected complexity and homoplasy in both the transition from non-avian dinosaurs to birds and the evolution of the crown avian condition, and providing unprecedented insights into the biology of Mesozoic paravians. For example, the recent discovery of the membranous wing of scansoriopterygids greatly strengthened the hypothesis that flight is not a uniquely avian adaptation within Dinosauria, and may indeed have arisen multiple times in Maniraptora, contributing to the gross homoplasy that characterizes derived members of this clade.

Despite new data, disagreements persist regarding such issues as the phylogenetic interrelationships of Mesozoic birds, the paleobiological interpretations that can be derived from their histology, and patterns of avian flight evolution. New discoveries are constantly reshaping existing perceptions of the earliest birds and their closest relatives. By assembling a large volume of research concerning the origin, evolution, diversity and paleobiology of Mesozoic birds, we hope to advance scientific understanding of all these broad topics, aiming not so much to reach consensus as to introduce important new information into the literature, encourage expression of a wide range of existing views regarding current controversies, and identify fruitful areas for further investigation.

We welcome Original Research on any topic pertaining to Mesozoic avians and their origin and evolution. Review articles are also welcome.

Potential topics include (but are not limited to):

- New Mesozoic bird taxa, or new morphological information on established taxa;
- Phylogenetic insights from augmented matrices and/or new analytical methods;
- Preserved soft tissues and their biological implications;
- Aerodynamics and patterns of flight evolution;
- Plumage and coloration;
- Growth, development and ontogeny;
- The dinosaur-avian transition;
- The evolution of ‘neornithine’ features; and
- Trajectories of avian evolution across the Cretaceous.


Keywords: Mesozoic bird, avian evolution, aerodynamics of flight, dinosaur-avian transition, paleobiology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Our understanding of Mesozoic birds has expanded and evolved enormously over the past two decades, reflecting important discoveries from around the world. Most recently, information from 99-Ma-old birds trapped in Burmese amber is complementing the wealth of data extracted from Early Cretaceous Lagerstätten in China and Spain. Expanding knowledge of early avian morphological diversity, combined with inferences derived from exceptionally preserved soft tissues, is rapidly changing our perception of stem avians, revealing unexpected complexity and homoplasy in both the transition from non-avian dinosaurs to birds and the evolution of the crown avian condition, and providing unprecedented insights into the biology of Mesozoic paravians. For example, the recent discovery of the membranous wing of scansoriopterygids greatly strengthened the hypothesis that flight is not a uniquely avian adaptation within Dinosauria, and may indeed have arisen multiple times in Maniraptora, contributing to the gross homoplasy that characterizes derived members of this clade.

Despite new data, disagreements persist regarding such issues as the phylogenetic interrelationships of Mesozoic birds, the paleobiological interpretations that can be derived from their histology, and patterns of avian flight evolution. New discoveries are constantly reshaping existing perceptions of the earliest birds and their closest relatives. By assembling a large volume of research concerning the origin, evolution, diversity and paleobiology of Mesozoic birds, we hope to advance scientific understanding of all these broad topics, aiming not so much to reach consensus as to introduce important new information into the literature, encourage expression of a wide range of existing views regarding current controversies, and identify fruitful areas for further investigation.

We welcome Original Research on any topic pertaining to Mesozoic avians and their origin and evolution. Review articles are also welcome.

Potential topics include (but are not limited to):

- New Mesozoic bird taxa, or new morphological information on established taxa;
- Phylogenetic insights from augmented matrices and/or new analytical methods;
- Preserved soft tissues and their biological implications;
- Aerodynamics and patterns of flight evolution;
- Plumage and coloration;
- Growth, development and ontogeny;
- The dinosaur-avian transition;
- The evolution of ‘neornithine’ features; and
- Trajectories of avian evolution across the Cretaceous.


Keywords: Mesozoic bird, avian evolution, aerodynamics of flight, dinosaur-avian transition, paleobiology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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