The Origin and Evolution of Birds

Alan Feduccia

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This monumental book is a modern, comprehensive, and profusely illustrated discussion of the origin of birds and of avian flight. Ornithologist and evolutionary biologist Alan Feduccia, author of the widely acclaimed Age of Birds, here draws on fossil evidence and studies of the structure and biochemistry of living birds to present current knowledge and fresh data on avian evolution and propose a major new model of this evolutionary process.

Feduccia begins with an overview of bird evolution, giving his opinions about the most controversial problem in vertebrate paleontology: whether birds evolved directly from bipedal, terrestrial dinosaurs (the ground-up theory) or from the precursors of dinosaurs—perhaps small arboreal thecodonts (the trees-down theory). He then provides information about the origin of avian flight and feathers and discusses the most dramatic discoveries in avian paleontology of the past few decades—the "opposite birds" that were the dominant landbirds of the Mesozoic. Feduccia next offers a new theory of avian evolution during the Tertiary, arguing that the evolution of birds follows a pattern similar to that of mammals, with an explosive (rather than gradual) evolution lasting only five to ten million years. In the second half of the book he summarizes the evolution of all the modern orders of birds, discussing such subjects as the evolution of filter-feeding in ducks and flamingos, the evolution of flightlessness, the evolution of birds of prey, and the rise of landbirds. The book also includes reconstructions of ancient fossil birds that have been prepared by leading bird artist John O'Neill.

Alan Feduccia is S.K. Heninger Professor, department of biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of numerous books.

"There are abundant and useful illustrations and photographs of many key specimens which will be of great value to ornithologists at large."—David Norman, Cambridge University Press

"This is a truly powerful and provocative exposition of avian history. Alan Feduccia's commanding knowledge of both vertebrate paleontology and fossil birds enables him to provide a rich perspective on and a timely contribution to ornithology."—Dr. Frank B. Gill, Senior Vice President of Science, National Audobon Society

"Rarely in my life have I been more instantly captivated by a new book. The Origin and Evolution of Birds is a masterpiece both technically and artistically. In scholarship and completeness it is of the highest possible level, yet it is easily readable even by non-specialists. Feduccia weaves new revelations and long-standing insights so richly, and illustrates them so vividly, that he literally breathes life into fossils. His monumental book is required reading for anyone even faintly interested in the evolution of birds."—Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

"This is the most comprehensive available account of the origin and the inferred relationship of the known living and fossil kinds of birds. Feduccia's speculations, concerning the timing of major events in the history of birds and particularly the causes of extinction, will stimulate a great deal of discussion and controversy."—Ernst Mayr, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology

"A well-written and authoritative account. The volume constitutes an important contributions to the areas of ornithology and paleontology. This is a book that all vertebrate paleontologists, many dinosaur enthusiasts, most professional ornithologists, and numerous amateur ornithologists will want to own."—George Clark, University of Connecticut

"Much has been conjectured about the evolution of birds and their reptilian origin but never have the many details been made more clear to me than in this exhaustive book by Alan Feduccia."—Roger Tory Peterson

"Feduccia writes with verve, humor, intelligence and understanding. In one sense he is the consummate teacher and a superb scientist. In telling the story he uses material from paleontology, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, and genetics. He evokes classic concepts such as homology and convergent evolution in his analysis. The intrinsic value of this approach makes for exciting reading, leaves the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the problems, and certainly stimulates new thinking in a field currently in flux. . . . I would recommend this book to students of any stripe interested in vertebrate evolution, birds, fossils, and dinosaurs. Anyone interested in how scientific arguments are crafted will find a showpiece on how evidence is interpreted, hypothesis formed and tested, and an (always) incomplete fossil record is integrated with all aspects of contemporary natural history."—Alan Brush, American Journal of Science

"Feduccia at his best, masterfully weaving information on fossil and living birds in both space and time. In both of his popular books, feduccia has displayed exceptional courage and vision, enticing us with how synthetic our understanding of avian evolution and diversification may eventually become."—David Winkler, American Paleontologist

"A superb review of avian evolution. . . . What is perhaps most important in this volume is the extremely detailed and thoughtful analysis of all the still-raging major controversies relating to the ancestry and classification of birds. . . . There is no other volume in existence that presents our knowledge on this subject as completely and expertly. . . . This volume is the foundation from which all future investigations of avian relationships will start."—Ernst Mayr, American Zoologist

"The virtue of this marvellous book does not lie primarily with the author's no-nonsense opinions, welcome though these are in the uncertain field of bird evolution. It is the scholarship that counts. . . . Definitive-a must."—Colin Tudge, Biologist

"For the nonspecialist, Feduccia's opus represents a skillfully constructed, easily read synthesis of mountains of data from the primary literature. . . . Feduccia has provided a truly monumental contribution to the paleontological and ornithological literature. This book's impact on investigations of avian evolution will be felt for years to come."—John Ruben, BioScience

"No matter which side of the debate you take, Origin remains one of the most important books available on the subject of avian evolution."—Bird Watcher’s Digest

"Feduccia's book is the most current and comprehensive treatment of bird evolution."—Bird Watcher's Digest 

"This is a remarkable book. . . . packed with information, and very well researched. . . . The book is presented in a large-page format with lots of pictures, including fabulous illustrations of fossils, and fascinatingly speculative reconstructions of long-extinct species."—David T. Parkin, British Birds

"Feduccia has written a comprehensive and thoroughly cited book detailing the origin and evolution of birds. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"This book is a modern, comprehensive, and profusely illustrated discussion of the origins of birds and of avian flight. The author, acclaimed evolutionary biologist and ornithologist, draws on fossil evidence and studies of the structure and biochemistry of living birds to present current knowledge and fresh data on avian evolution and proposes a major new model of this evolutionary process. . . . A scholarly presentation of an interesting subject that should appeal to all evolutionists and birders in general."—Charles E. Keller, Indiana Audubon Quarterly

"This fact-filled, well illustrated, and accurate work will enthrall serious science readers."—Library Journal

"An all-encompassing and timely overview. The text is as up-to-date as possible in such a fast-moving field. . . . For anyone interested in feathered dinosaurs, feathered crocodiles or just plain birds, Feduccia's book is a must."—Douglas Palmer, New Scientist

"An authoritative book."—John Noble Wilford, New York Times

"I highly recommend Feduccia's latest book, not only to avian biologists, but to anyone who is interested in the study of evolution and in the elucidation of large-scale and complex evolutionary patterns."—Stephen C. Lougheed, Quarterly Review of Biology

"A landmark. It is certainly the most important single-authored volume on the subject since Gerhard Heilmann's 1926 opus, and probably will wind up being the most controversial, most reviewed paleontological work of the decade. . . . We should read it, study it, even cherish it. It will remain the premiere document on the early evolution of birds for years to come. . . . History should judge it a resounding success."—Lawrence M. Witmer, Science

"The text could well be sued in, and is at the level of, a graduate course in avian systematics and evolution. . . . A must for anyone interested in the topic."—Dan Tallman, South Dakota Bird Notes

"If The Age of Birds was an excellent book, the Origin is an outstanding one. . . . Without a doubt [this book] will be an important reference and source book for all ornithologists and others interested in the evolution of birds until Alan Feduccia publishes the next volume in this series. . . . The best analysis available by far of this subject. Not only should it be on the bookshelves of all ornithologists and biologists, both professional and amateur, who are interested in fossil birds and their evolution, it should be read carefully."—Walter J. Bock, The Auk

"A landmark publication in ornithology. No other work has presented so much of the original data or discussed it so clearly."—Larry D. Martin, The Sciences

"This book is a clear, thorough, and at times passionate exposition of Feduccia's side of the debate. . . . A very good read."—Adrian L. R. Thomas, Trends in Ecology and Evolution

"Anyone with a serious interest in birds will want to read this important book. Most highly recommended."—Wildlife Activist

Winner of the 1996 Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division award for excellence in biological science, given by the Association of American Publishers
ISBN: 9780300064605
Publication Date: September 25, 1996
432 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
534 b/w illus.
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