Wednesday, 12 February 2014

#504 In the studio: Birds . . . classification

Start this series with post # 503, Feb. 5, 2014

Scientists have organized and classified birds into major groups called ORDERS.

Each order contains a number of entities called SPECIES.

Species refer to all the birds within an order that are like one another . . . robins, for instance, belong in one species, 
and are in the order passeriformes.

Since "arky", more than 1.5 million species of birds 
have existed on this planet . . . of these, approximately 
10,000 species have evolved and remain.

                     1  Tinamiformes:  tinamous and rheas
                     2  Struthioniformes: ostriches
                     3  Casuariiformes:  cassowaries, emus, and kiwis
                     4  Galliformes:  gamebirds
                     5  Anseriformes:  waterfowl
                     6  Sphenisciformes: penguins 
                     7  Gaviiformes:  loons (divers)
                     8  Podicipediformes:  grebes
                     9  Procellariiformes:  albatrosses and petrels
                   10  Phoenicopteriformes:  flamingos
                   11  Ciconiiformes:  herons and allies
                   12  Pelecaniformes:  pelican and allies 
                   13  Falconiformes: birds of prey
                   14  Charadriiformes:  gulls, plovers and allies 
                   15  Gruiformes:  cranes and allies
                   16  Opisthocomiformes:  hoatzin
                   17  Charadriiformes: waders and shorebirds 
                   18  Pteroclidiformes:  sandgrouse
                   19  Columbiformes:  pigeons
                   20  Psittaciformes:  parrots and cockatoos
                   21  Musophagiformes:  Turacos
                   22  Cuculiformes:  cuckoos
                   23  Strigiformes: owls
                   24  Caprimulgiformes:  nightjars and allies 
                   25  Apodiformes:  hummingbirds and swifts
                   26  Caliiformes:  mousebirds
                   27  Trogoniformes:  trogons 
                   28  Coraciiformes:  kingfishers and allies
                   29  Bucerotiformes:  hornbills and hoopoes
                   30  Piciformes:  woodpeckers and allies
                   31  Passeriformes:  perching birds, song birds, ravens, and allies
Each bird on the planet falls into one of the ORDERS and is arranged in a sequence that indicates its closest relative.  Outward appearance does not always place birds in the same ORDER as ornithologists look beyond appearance and rely on factors such as anatomy, skeletal structure, DNA analysis, etc.  A complete list of all birds on the planet can be found online by going to Wikipedia: List of Birds. The different species in each ORDER can be found online and in various
field guides which will be discussed in the next post.  Scientists, however, continue to disagree as to the exact 
number of birds in existence as well as to what ORDER some should be placed. 

The highest ranked order, the passeriformes, or perching birds are the most adaptable and are 
considered the highest evolved . . .  the lowest ranked are the flightless ostriches and rheas.  
Over half of all birds on earth belong to the passeriformes order.  Some scientists believe that early in the 
evolutionary process, birds split into two diverse groups.  The first, and much smaller group comprised 
ratites, tinamous, waterfowl, and pheasants.  The second group included all the other avian orders.

Below, is a drawing of an ostrich and a image of a raven sculpture.  
Most scientists consider flightless bird the lowest ranked order 
on the evolutionary classification chart.  The passerines - which includes corvids like 
the raven - is considered the highest evolved and most adaptable.

Black Magic
23"H 17"W 17"D 

Following the Jurassic Period, dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period . . .  flowering plants flourished and, released from competition with dinosaurs, birds (and mammals)  occupied some of the niches of the bipedal dinosaur.  Under these conditions, birds thrived and diversified.  

The function of classification is to make sense of the diversity of species by grouping together related forms.  
This diversity is the result of rapid evolutionary change during the past 50 million years.
To avoid confusion across languages, Latin names are used in bird classification, as they are for all other organisms.  Closely related species are grouped in one genus, closely related genera are grouped in 
one family, closely related families are grouped in one order, and so on.          

Since the late 20th century,  fossil discoveries in China and DNA studies continue to present 
controversy among  scientists as to the distantly related ancestors of the modern bird.
Technically, birds are "avian dinosaurs" and the debate continues as to whether they evolved from a bird-like reptile.  

Below, discoveries, analysis, and debate will continue among scientists, but for now . . .
"arky" remains the universally recognized transitional fossil - or link - between dinosaurs and the modern bird.  

Below is a drawing of "arky" and a photo of the fossil found in 1861 . . . see the previous post for more information.

Blog, text, photos, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish Smith

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