Biology Bulletin

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1–11

On the origin of avian flight: Compromise and system approaches

Theoretical Biology


Based on evolutionary morphological analysis of the fore and hind limbs of extinct and extant birds, a new compromise hypothesis of the origin of flight in birds and theropod dinosaurs is proposed. The bipedalism and anisodactylous foot suitable for various functions were key adaptations for the development of flight. The bipedalism freed forelimbs from the supporting function and promoted transformation into wings, as animals moved from one tree branch to another and descended from trees. At the initial stage, the strong hind limbs provided the opportunity to climb and leap onto trees, bushes, or eminence, while the anisodactylous foot provided a firm support on both dry land and trees. The support provided by this foot allowed the reduction of the tail, which was initially composed of a long row of vertebrae. Thus, a stage of gliding flight was not necessarily passed by early birds. In the other lineages of feathered creatures, functional changes in forelimbs that resulted in the formation of wings developed in parallel and followed almost the same scenario.


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© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Paleontological InstituteRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Institute of ZoologyNational Academy of Sciences of UkraineKievUkraine

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