The theory of evolution claims that birds evolved from dinosaurs only by mutation, genetic drift, migration and natural selection.

However, it seems to me that wings were not selectively advantageous for dinosaurs.

Would you show me a book or a paper which explains this point in detail with academic accuracy? Level of the book or the paper should have detailed information for an advanced reader.

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    $\begingroup$ An introductory course to evolutionary biology such as Understanding Evolution for example might help you. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Nov 7, 2015 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b I'm looking for a book or a paper (or an internet site) that explains the evolution of dinosaurs to birds in detail with accademic accuracy. Does that site you mentioned have such an account? If yes, would you please show us a link to it? I checked the site, but I was unable to find the one. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2015 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ No the site I linked is not specific to your question. But having a better understanding of evolutionary processes in general will help you to answer the specific questions you may have (such as the one you are asking in this post). $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Nov 7, 2015 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to have a look at this post to avoid potential semantic issues about what a dinosaur is. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Nov 7, 2015 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ The question is unfortunately too broad. There have been many changes from the ancestors of modern day birds and modern day birds. You should reduce your question to one specific trait and also probably precise whether you are interested in knowing the phenotypic intermediate stages or the specific genes involved in the evolution of this specific trait. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Nov 7, 2015 at 23:36

1 Answer 1


First of all, dinosaurs did not evolve to birds. A better way of saying it is that modern birds evolved from a particular type of dinosaur. That, however, is not the same as the blanket statement "dinosaurs evolved to birds". The latter implies that dinosaurs somehow morphed into birds and stopped being dinosaurs. What actually happens is that a species starts changing and, eventually, a sub-population of that species has changed so much that we call it a new species. It is a subtle distinction but important.

As for a specific paper, no we don't have anything like that for any specific examples. What we have is a huge collection of observations all of which point to the process of speciation occurring via the processes of mutation and natural selection. It's impossible to know the precise series of mutations that led to the creation of a new species for a variety of reasons.

All we have is the current species. If we know an ancestor, we can deduce a possible path that leads from the genome of the ancestor to the genome of the target species but we have no way of knowing whether that specific path was followed. For an analogy, consider computers. If I were to give you a modern desktop PC and one of the first computers:

old and new computers

You might be able to guess certain changes that were made to the old ones in order to build something like the new ones but would you be able to figure out every single step along the way? How would you detect all the attempts that failed? The ideas that didn't pan out? Would you be able to infer the existence of floppy disks, for example?

The same problem applies to species. It is essentially impossible to infer the precise series of mutations that led species B to split from species A. Especially since, usually, this happens through species A.1, A.2, A.2.1, A.3 etc, and all we have is species B.

Add to that the fact that evolution is not a linear process, there are many dead ends (way more than in computers), and the story gets even harder to understand. This graphic illustrates it quite well:

enter image description here

Obviously, if you have the first red dot on the far left and the last blue on on the far right, it will be impossible to infer the entire evolutionary history linking these species.

So, with this in mind, given that dinosaurs and birds share a common ancestor, it is essentially impossible to get the full, true, path that led from that ancestor to either dinosaurs or birds. More importantly, as shown in the image above, dinosaurs did not evolve into birds in the first place so the question is moot.

  • $\begingroup$ If the "common ancestor" was a dinosaur, then it would not be incorrect to suggest that birds evolved from dinosaurs. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2015 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ Could you give me a clue how reptilians(I hope the nomenclature is more accurate than dinosaurs), for example, grew wings and lost most of bone marrows? It seems to me that those features are not advantageous for them to survive unless they were able to fly. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2015 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ @vervet as far as I know, that's not the case. I may be wrong though. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Nov 7, 2015 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @terdon "First of all, dinosaurs did not evolve to birds. That is a common misconception. You might want to have a look at the answers here. What you're probably thinking of is that modern birds and dinosaurs share a common ancestor." I beg to disagree. evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_06 "The discovery that birds evolved from small carnivorous dinosaurs of the Late Jurassic" $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2015 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato you greatly misunderstand evolution when you presuppose that all the traits that exist have to be selectively beneficial. We know that the vast majority of new mutations are near-neutral and selection can be quite weak. Also, a trait may simply piggyback on other beneficial traits - take a gene for resistance to a pathogen, for instance and a gene for fur colour in a predator free environment where the disease is selective; if the two traits emerge in the same lineage fur colour will be selected for just because disease resistance is selected for. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2015 at 15:05

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