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How Birds Lost Teeth? Simple, They Didn't Need Them Anymore

By    |   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 07:02 AM

A common ancestor of all birds lost its teeth about 116 million years ago because it no longer needed them, and evolved to have beaks instead.

According to Discovery News, this new discovery was made by biologists at the University of California, Riverside, and Montclair State University using DNA sequencing from 48 different species of bird. Focusing on six specific teeth-related enamel genes, scientists found out that they became non-functional long ago in that common ancestor.

"Ever since the discovery of the fossil bird Archaeopteryx in 1861, it has been clear that living birds are descended from toothed ancestors," Mark Springer, a professor of biology and one of the lead authors of the study at Montclair State University, said in a news release. "However, the history of tooth loss in the ancestry of modern birds has remained elusive for more than 150 years."

Now, we know that across the roughly 10,000 species of birds living today — from finch to flamingo — all can trace their lineage to a single ancestor.

Archaeopteryx, a transitional species between dinosaurs and birds, lived roughly 150 million years ago. With the new discovery, scientists now think that as the teeth receded from the mouth, a beak began to develop to slowly replace it.

"You can't expect that an ancestor would have gone through a stage when all of the teeth would have been lost, but there was no beak," said Springer.

"That would have made it too hard to do all the things they needed to do like feeding themselves or their young. Once you get that partial beak, then you can continue to lose the teeth more posterially until they become completely replaced by the beak."

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A common ancestor of all birds lost its teeth about 116 million years ago because it no longer needed them, and evolved to have beaks instead.
how, birds, lost, teeth
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2014-02-16
Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 07:02 AM
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