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Tracing the evolution of avian wing digits


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It is widely accepted that birds are a subgroup of dinosaurs, but there is an apparent conflict: modern birds have been thought to possess only the middle three fingers (digits II-III-IV) of an idealized five-digit tetrapod hand based on embryological data, but their Mesozoic tetanuran dinosaur ancestors are considered to have the first three digits (I-II-III) based on fossil evidence. How could such an evolutionary quirk arise? Various hypotheses have been proposed to resolve this paradox. Adding to the confusion, some recent developmental studies support a I-II-III designation for avian wing digits whereas some recent paleontological data are consistent with a II-III-IV identification of the Mesozoic tetanuran digits.

 

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