What strikes me about this class is the long history of extinctions. All species of dinosaurs disappeared except one: birds. The birds we see around us survived millions of years, through eras and epochs, and grace us today with their beauty, their song, and the flesh and eggs they provide.
Worldwide, birds face many challenges today, including Climate Change. In Missouri we have bird species under threat of extinction, including the Greater Prairie Chicken. This intriguing species once roamed much of North America, and is now restricted to only small patches throughout the contiguous U.S.
Booming Ben, was last seen on Martha's Vineyard in 1932. My mother, who is still alive, was five years old when Booming Ben disappeared. This happened within her lifetime, and yet, sad to say, I'm not sure she ever heard of the Heath Hen... or so many other bird species disappeared during her lifetime, including the Ivory Billed Woodpecker
Whilst taking this course I also read Hope Is The Thing With Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds by Chrisopher Cokinos. This book is an eloquent look into the extinction of five species of birds which once lived on our continent. It is both a history and a cautionary tale. As we forge ahead in our lives extracting resources from the earth, littering, polluting rivers and land, clearing forests, destroying wetlands, building obstacles, we are in danger of losing the very animals - the very dinosaurs - that survived extinctions of so many others of their
The final lesson of the University of Alberta course ended with this paragraph.
What is next for bird evolution? What challenges will this amazing group of animals have to confront? If we look at recent biodiversity data, the future is leak for the surviving theropod lineage. Around 12% of bird species are currently threatened and about 180 species are in imminent danger of extinction. Losses of habitat and climate change are the two greatest threats affecting migration routes and breeding. Highly specialized groups like rails or parrots or biogeographic relics such as the kiwi are among the most endangered groups. Losing this diversity of birds would be catastrophic for our ecosystems because they play important roles dispersing seeds or controlling the insect population. It is in our hands to protect and conserve the only living, and most successful, of the dinosaurs.
Palaeontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds