For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with dinosaurs.
In fact, when I was a young child I used to dig up my backyard in hopes of finding some fossils or dinosaur bones.
My biggest goal in life at the age of 7?
To become an Anthropologist!
And with movies like Jurassic Park being such a huge hit around the world, I’m sure I’m not the only one.
But while I learned in school that dinosaurs died out a long time ago, I also heard a rumor that dinosaurs have a living descendant – birds.
So naturally, I had to investigate to answer the question – are parrots descendants of dinosaurs?
The answer to this question is yes – parrots, as well as all other species of bird, are living descendants of dinosaurs. In fact, aside from reptiles, birds are the only living things on the planet that have such a close connection with the now extinct varieties of dinosaur.
But what types of birds existed in the dinosaur era?
What types of dinosaurs did parrots evolve from?
And how has evolution changed birds over millions of years?
Today we will answer all of these questions and more – so let’s not waste another minute!
What types of dinosaurs did birds evolve from?
Birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs known as theropods.
In the same family as the theropods were the velociraptors and the ever feared Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Compared to modern day birds, theropods were much larger.
The average theropod weighed anywhere between 100-500 pounds!
Theropods were known for having large teeth and snouts, but small brains.
Also unlike birds today, theropods were flesh-eating.
The group included all flesh-eating dinosaurs.
Theropods were also different from today’s birds in that they did not fly.
Rather, they stood on their two hind legs.
Their front legs were used for support and for catching and tearing apart prey.
Their feet, however, were a close resemblance to bird feet of today.
Birds emerged from a lineage of small theropods that were small and feathered (but did not fly).
There were no parrots or other species of birds alive during the time of the dinosaurs.
There were, however, flying reptiles.
The most well known of these was the Pterodactyl.
The Pterodactyl was known to live in a variety of places around the world including China, Germany, and throughout the Americas.
This dinosaur first appeared in the late Triassic Period and flew through the skies until the Cretaceous Period.
They were thought to go extinct around 66 million years ago.
They were believed to glide more than fly.
Why did birds survive?
The oldest bird fossil that has ever been found is over 150 million years old.
From the fossil, it’s believed that the birds were small, and looked like feathered dinosaurs.
During this time, it’s believed that birds had sharp teeth.
It was only over time that their teeth evolved into beaks.
Why did these avian dinosaurs survive while all other species died out?
There’s a couple different theories as to why birds survived.
The first theory is that they survived because they were small.
The birds that survived this period were thought to be approximately the size of a duck.
Why is this relevant?
There’s a few different reasons.
Firstly, smaller species breed faster and adapt to changing conditions easier.
So when the large asteroid hit earth destroying all other species and changing the environment, birds were able to adapt while other species were not.
Secondly, because birds were so small, they required less food.
And because food supplies were now limited, this was a huge advantage for birds.
The second theory on why birds survived is because of what they eat.
Birds eat almost anything including seeds, insects, fruit, and fish.
This is an obvious advantage when food supplies are limited.
And finally, birds survived because they fly.
Unlike many of the dinosaurs that had to walk, birds could easily fly long distances.
This meant that when environmental conditions became dangerous (ie. volcanos set off), birds could escape and move to a safer location.
Other dinosaurs that walked were left behind.
What do Parrots and Dinosaurs have in common?
Some dinosaurs laid eggs
Fossilized dinosaur remains have suggested that some female dinosaurs carried eggs inside of them.
More specifically, one type of theropod was thought to be able to lay two eggs at a time.
Birds today can only lay one egg at a time, but this may not have always been the case.
Male dinosaurs guarded the eggs
Science suggests that there were many species of dinosaurs wherein the male guarded the eggs.
For most parrots, it is the female that incubates the egg.
With that being said, it’s not uncommon in the parrot species for the male to keep the female company.
It’s also not uncommon for the father to feed and protect the chicks after they are born.
Dinosaurs evolved to be small
As dinosaurs evolved, they became smaller and smaller in size.
Many of the dinosaurs that were closely linked to birds were found to be small in stature.
The Mahakala Omnogovae, for example, was only 2 feet long.
It’s theorized that this small stature was a prerequisite for what was to come next – taking flight.
Some dinosaurs had air sacs
Parrots breathe differently than humans.
More specifically, they have what is known as air-sacs which help to pump air through the lungs.
Though birds are the only ones to breathe this way today, it’s thought that there were some species of dinosaurs that did the same.
More specifically, the fossil remains of an Aerosteon Riocoloradensis was found to have a bird-like breathing system.
This same dinosaur had feathers, though it did not fly.
Some dinosaurs had feathers
The Velociraptor, known best for its role in the hit movie Jurassic park, was known to have feathers.
Again, they did not fly, but they did look something like an abnormal bird.
The earliest type of bird ever known to man was called the Archaeopteryx and was known to have feet that resembled that of a dinosaur.
More specifically, the first toe of the Archaeopteryx extended from the side of the foot, much like a human thumb.
Velociraptors were thought to have similar feet.
Though parrots no longer have this thumb-like toe, this remains to be more proof that they did, in fact, descend from dinosaurs.
So, did parrots descend from dinosaurs?
There seems to be plenty of proof out there that birds, including parrots, did in fact descend from dinosaurs.
So the next time you see your parrot, know that you are looking at a piece of history!