The dinosaurs are a mighty species that once ruled the world as its apex predators 65 million years ago. Today, they’re long gone, but in their presence, we have the closest descendants we can have to birds. In other words, birds are the next thing to dinosaurs in the world we have today in terms of genetic relation.
However, what bird is most closely related to dinosaurs? The answer would be the intimidating Cassowary, the bird that’s believed as the closest to the prehistoric dinos out of all the thousands of birds. Although, they’re not the only ones!
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Birds Related to Dinosaurs
If you’re looking for living, breathing dinosaurs, you don’t have to watch a movie to see them. Since they were nearly wiped out, the genetic remains of the surviving few have evolved into a completely new species. However, not all of them retained the same fearsome look as they did years ago, and only a few retained prehistoric features.
Right now, birds are not dinosaurs, well, at least they’re not the same as they were before they evolved.
A group of dinosaurs with bird features have been put inside a category called the Theropod. The dinos that fall under this are the well-known Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, and Archaeopteryx.
Below is the list of birds that make the closest relative to dinosaurs.
The Cassowaries are presumed to have the greatest resemblance to dinosaurs in comparison to the rest and might be the closest living relatives to dinosaurs.
When you think about dinosaurs, the features that come to mind are big bodies and fierce claws. Cassowaries have just that and might be the most primitive bird alive today.
Besides being flightless birds, the most iconic feature that makes them a splitting image of their ancient counterparts is the sturdy formation on top of their heads. The formation is something dinosaurs were seen to have. Now, add their fearsome and deep bellows, then you have a living dinosaur.
2. Condors and vultures
Vultures and condors are next on the list of prehistoric-looking birds, and the reason lies in their featherless heads and immense size. California condors and their fellow vultures belong in the same category and resemble their prehistoric ancestors.
A vulture’s wingspan can reach up to 6 feet, and a Condor’s can go up to 9 feet. With this, Condors are easily one of the largest birds in North America. Another fun fact about Condors is that there are records of them that reach all the way back to a million years ago.
Here comes a beautiful bird with perky feathers, the Haotzin. The Haotzins hail from South America and are known for the high-standing plumage on their head that makes up for the lack of it on their blue faces.
Something that makes Hatozins special is how their babies develop talons on their wings that aid them in climbing and underwater hiding.
It’s been found long ago that Hatozins developed as a species after getting split apart from other birds around 65 million years in the past.
The first bird in our list that falls under Theropods is Turkey, another bird that looks like dinosaur.
Turkeys share the ancient genes of two-legged dinosaurs. This can be seen in the similarities of their skeletal structure between Turkeys and other theropods like the Microraptor and Bambiraptor.
The Furcula bone helped these predatory raptors take flight back in the day, and now, Turkeys use it just the same way, just as they do with their inherited wings. If you take a closer look at a turkey’s legs, you’d see them identical to the dinosaurs that used the same structure to run 60 kilometers an hour.
Just from appearance alone, we can deduce that the unique Shoebill bird already looks like a living, breathing dinosaur with somewhat bird-like dinosaurs names.
There’s no denying their descendants, which can be seen in their iconic bill. Their bill has a certain curve at the very tip and is reminiscent of a velociraptor’s skeletal structure. Shoebills use this very beak to create loud clicking noises.
Besides that, Shoebills can also reach a height of around five feet. They can easily hunt a smaller animal for their meal, like their carnivorous ancestors.
Next up, we have ostriches. Ostriches are a fearsome species that everyone knows to be the biggest flightless bird today. A large bird that looks like a dinosaur.
If we look through the tree of ancestry, there is a fossilized dinosaur named the Ornithomimus that has great similarities to the modern-day ostrich. The two Theropod species are seen to both have an abundance of feathers covering only their main body and elongated necks.
It’s completely understandable to be intimidated by an ostrich. After all, it can reach around nine feet tall with legs powerful enough to kill even the King of the Jungle. Imagine having that coming at you at 70 kilometers per hour.
Are chickens related to dinosaurs? The chicken might be the first bird that comes to your mind when it comes to birds descended from the dinosaur, and some might even say they’re from T-Rex.
When it comes to dinosaurs related to chickens, researchers discovered special T-Rex collagen that could be put through genetic analysis. It was found that they have a large similarity to chickens.
Chickens also show a similarity to the ancient Archaeopteryx theropod starting from their body and feathers, which make chickens descendants of dinosaurs.
How Did the Bird Ancestors Survive the Mass Extinction?
It was millions of years ago when the dinosaurs nearly became extinct after a devastating asteroid made an impact on our planet. However, not every single living being was killed. Like the Theropods, a dinosaur bird still alive made it through.
Birds could survive due to their small size, which enabled them to multiply faster than larger dinosaurs. A smaller size comes with a lesser need for food. Unlike dinosaurs who needed greens, Theropods could survive on any food.
Since birds could fly, they could travel fast and far away from the affected areas and use this to forage for food on a wider scale.
Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers?
It’s been a long-time belief that all dinosaurs were reptilian animals that roamed the earth, but recent discoveries made for different imagery.
An example would be the Velociraptor. After its fossils were uncovered. Quill knobs were spotted near the ulna, the bones you see on birds today. Although the feathers were lost to fossilization, the knobs are an undeniable fact.
Countless dinosaurs with feathers have been uncovered, most of which are categorized under Theropods. Some have even learned through solid proof of ornithischians that they have a relation to birds.
The prehistoric era of the dinosaurs is a fascinating concept that we look back to in modern-day films. However, the remnants of this fearsome era are all around us today in the birds that fly over our homes. In their abundance, it leads us to question what bird is most closely related to dinosaurs.
Among all of them, the closest would be the Cassowaries. However, that’s not to forget the runner-ups of Turkeys, Shoebills, and more.
George and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.