A small set of fossilized bones discovered almost thirty years ago led paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee on a lifelong quest to understand their place in our understanding of the history of life. They were clearly the bones of something unusual, a bird-like creature that lived long, long ago in the age of dinosaurs. He called it Protoavis, and the animal that owned these bones quickly became a contender for the title of "oldest known bird." In 1997, Chatterjee published his findings in the first edition of The Rise of Birds.
Since then Chatterjee and his colleagues have searched the world for more transitional bird fossils. And they have found them. This second edition of The Rise of Birds brings together a treasure trove of fossils that tell us far more about the evolution of birds than we once dreamed possible. With no blind allegiance to what he once thought he knew, Chatterjee devours the new evidence and lays out the most compelling version of the birth and evolution of the avian form ever attempted. He takes us from Texas to Spain, China, Mongolia, Madagascar, Australia, Antarctica, and Argentina. He shows how, in the "Cretaceous Pompeii" of China, he was able to reconstruct the origin and evolution of flight of early birds from the feathered dinosaurs that lay among thousands of other amazing fossils.
Chatterjee takes us to where long-hidden bird fossils dwell. His compelling, occasionally controversial, revelations – accompanied by spectacular illustrations – are a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in the evolution of "the feathered dinosaurs," from vertebrate paleontologists and ornithologists to naturalists and birders.
"[...] This is a very detailed work and is more likely to be of interest to the specialist but it is an excellent sunmiary of our current knowledge."
– Anne Goodenough, The BES Bulletin 43(7), October 2016
"Although this is stated to be a second edition (the first appeared in 1997 [...]), the speed with which new avian fossils have been appearing means that this work is significantly different from the earlier version. [...] Not all studies are in agreement over the details and doubtless our understanding of the evolution of birds will continue to develop, but this work makes me feel that the true family tree of birds is closer to being within our grasp."
– Christopher Perrins, Ibis 158, 2016
"[...] an academic book, inevitably with some detailed descriptions of fossils. However it is an easy read and can and should be read and understood by anyone interested in the subject."
– Peter Lack, BTO book reviews
"The thought of toppling Archaeopteryx from its lofty evolutionary perch is probably enough to ruffle some scientific feathers. But The Rise of Birds, as the title promises, delivers more than an interpretation of a single bird, however ancient. Most of the book is devoted to a thoughtful analysis of bird evolution and anatomy aided by useful drawings. Chatterjee forcefully argues a minority view that bird flight originated from the 'trees down.' He also reminds us why we should be, as we are, fascinated by birds and their origins."
– New York Times Book Review
"Eminent paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee provides a splendid overview of the current paleontological orthodox, plying through the highly contentious waters of bird and flight origin controversies with exemplary scholarship and much needed civility. In a field with strong beliefs, he skillfully illustrates the currently popular views and shows where striking areas of uncertainty persist."
– Alan Feduccia, University of North Carolina
"New finds and new technologies have caused a revolution in the science of avian origins, and Chatterjee draws on these as he paints a detailed and engaging picture of the evolutionary tapestry of feathered dinosaurs and early birds."
– Lawrence M. Witmer, Ohio University
"A fascinating and well-illustrated review of the fossil record of birds that offers the most updated and informative account of the remarkable recent discoveries of feathered dinosaurs and early birds from China. Chatterjee's book is a must-read for vertebrate paleontologists, ornithologists, and anyone who wants to know how birds evolved from dinosaurs."
– Zhonghe Zhou, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
"The Rise of Birds is a clearly presented, very complete, and enjoyable to read documentation of the evolution of birds. For all who have questions about the origin of birds, of flight and diversity, this well-illustrated book holds the answers. It includes new analyses of the birds and feathered dinosaurs discovered in China. After reading this book I shall forever see birds with a new understanding."
– David Dilcher, Indiana University
"Chatterjee takes us to where long-hidden bird fossils dwell. His compelling, occasionally controversial, revelations – accompanied by spectacular illustrations – are a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in the evolution of 'the feathered dinosaurs,' from vertebrate paleontologists and ornithologists to naturalists and birders [...] A must have for anyone with a serious interest in fossil birds."
– Birdbooker Report
Preface to the Second Edition ix
Preface to the First Edition xiii
1. Mesozoic Pompeii 1
2. The Evolution of an Airframe 9
3. The Origin of Birds 19
4. Archaeopteryx: An Ancient Wing 57
5. Protoavis: A Precocious Triassic Bird 72
6. Basal Avialans: The Long-Tailed Birds 106
7. Pygostylia: The Short-Tailed Birds 113
8. Enantiornithes: Global Cretaceous Birds 123
9. Ornithuromorphs: The Prelude to Modern Birds 140
10. The End-Cretaceous Mass Extinction 158
11. The Avian Revolution Begins 175
12. The Origin of Flight 213
13. Eggs, Embryos, and Heterochrony 265
14. Feathers and Footprints 287
15. The Feeding Mechanism and Cranial Kinesis 304
16. Birds and Humans 333
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Sankar Chatterjee is the Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of geology and a curator of paleontology at Texas Tech University. He has led expeditions to India, China, Antarctica, and the American Southwest in search of dinosaur and early bird remains.