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The scope of this book ranges widely, from bio-molecular aspects of avian biology to details of the anatomy of dinosaurs. However, it is not just a simple compilation of current material. Its purpose is to help bridge a gap that has developed between those who study birds as fossils and those who study the living animals.
Each chapter of this book puts current understanding in context with directions that research may take over the next few years. The first section of the book reviews the early ancestry of birds and the conditions under which they and their nearest relatives diversified in the Cretaceous. The second section is intended to provide ornithologists with an overview of the fossil record. It contrasts with the third section which focuses on the development of features that have contributed to the success of living forms.
Foreword. List of Contributors. Preface. Part 1 Introduction: the Deep Evolutionary History of Modern Birds. Introduction: Changing the Questions in Avian Paleontology (Gary Kaiser and Gareth Dyke). 1 Theropod Diversity and the Refinement of Avian Characteristics (Peter J. Makovicky and Lindsay E. Zanno). 2 Why Were There Dinosaurs? Why Are There Birds? (Peter Ward and Robert Berner). 3 Pre-modern Birds: Avian Divergences in the Mesozoic (Jingmai O'Connor, Luis M. Chiappe, and Alyssa Bell). Part 2 "The Contribution of Paleontology to Ornithology": the Diversity of Modern Birds: Fossils and the Avian Tree of Life. 4 Progress and Obstacles in the Phylogenetics of Modern Birds (Bradley C. Livezey). 5 The Utility of Fossil Taxa and the Evolution of Modern Birds: Commentary and Analysis (Gareth Dyke and Eoin Gardiner). 6 Penguins Past, Present, and Future: Trends in the Evolution of the Sphenisciformes (Daniel T. Ksepka and Tatsuro Ando). 7 Phorusrhacids: the Terror Birds (Herculano Alvarenga, Luis Chiappe, and Sara Bertelli). 8 The Pseudo-toothed Birds (Aves, Odontopterygiformes) and their Bearing on the Early Evolution of Modern Birds (Estelle Bourdon). 9 Phylogeny and Diversification of Modern Passerines (F. Keith Barker). Part 3 The Evolution of Key Avian Attributes. 10 Morphological and Behavioral Correlates of Flapping Flight (Bret W. Tobalske, Douglas R. Warrick, Brandon E. Jackson, and Kenneth P. Dial). 11 Evolution of the Avian Brain and Senses (Stig Walsh and Angela Milner). 12 Evolving Perceptions on the Antiquity of the Modern Avian Tree (Joseph W. Brown and M. Van Tuinen). 13 Major Events in Avian Genome Evolution (Chris L. Organ and Scott V. Edwards). 14 Bird Evolution Across the K-Pg Boundary and the Basal Neornithine Diversification (Bent E. K. Lindow). 15 Functional and Phylogenetic Diversity in Marine and Aquatic Birds (Gary Kaiser). Part 4 The Future: Conservation and Climate Change. 16 The State of the World's Birds and the Future of Avian Diversity (Gavin H. Thomas). Glossary. Index. Colour plates.
Gareth Dyke is a vertebrate palaeontologist who specialises on the evolution of birds and their flight. He has worked on birds of all ages, from the 140 million years old Archaeopteryx right through to the bones of living ducks and gamebirds. He has searched for fossils all over the world, but has a particular interest in the geology and palaeontology of Eastern Europe. He has worked in Ireland since 2002. Gary Kaiser worked as a field biologist in Canada's migratory bird program from 1968 until retirement in 1999. He specialized in the capture and tagging of birds, particularly seabirds but began to study avian evolution in 1995. He combined this new interest with knowleddge gained from handling birds to write Inner Bird in 2007. He has also contributed to Birds of British Columbia and Seabirds of the Russian Far East.
Living Dinosaurs offers a snapshot of our current understanding of the origin and evolution of birds ... a must have for those with an interest in avian paleontology and/or systematics. (Guardian, 8 May 2011) "In Living Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary History of Modern Birds, researchers Gareth Dyke and Gary Kaiser set out to unite ornithologists and paleontologists to form a modern understanding of the evolution of birds at the beginning of the 21st century." (Bioscience Technology Online, 5 April 2011)