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Do Elephants Have Knees? And Other Stories of Darwinian Origins$
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Charles R., Jr. Ault

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501704673

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501704673.001.0001

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Archaic Chickengators

Archaic Chickengators

Amniotic Archosaur Ancestors of Dinosaurs and Birds

(p.159) 11 Archaic Chickengators
Do Elephants Have Knees? And Other Stories of Darwinian Origins

Charles R. Ault

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on the amniotic archosaur ancestors of dinosaurs and birds. Amphibians, reptiles, monotremes, and birds—frog, alligator, platypus, and chicken—all hatch from eggs and all boast backbones. Yet the eggs of amphibians, and many of their traits, are significantly different from those of others. Leo Lionni's story, An Extraordinary Egg, hides some fascinating evolutionary twists linking these creatures together while defining their differences. In between the lines lurks the incipient origin of earth's most monstrous creatures: the dinosaurs. This chapter first examines the ancestry of archosaurs before discussing prominent inherited traits that define subgroups within the amniotes such as crocodiles. It also considers the bone anatomy that provides the clues to the close relationship between birds and dinosaurs; the “dinochicken,” Tyrannosaurus chickensis, reconstructed from imaginary fossil evidence; and whether dinosaurs are not truly extinct, but only evolved to become smaller and more feathery than in the past.

Keywords:   dinosaurs, birds, eggs, Leo Lionni, evolution, archosaurs, amniotes, crocodiles, dinochicken, Tyrannosaurus chickensis

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