Rhetoric vs. reality: A commentary on "Bird Origins Anew" by A. Feduccia

N. Adam Smith*, Luis M. Chiappe, Julia A. Clarke, Scott V. Edwards, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Mark A. Norell, Thomas A. Stidham, Alan Turner, Marcel Van Tuinen, Jakob Vinther, Xing Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Birds are maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs. The evidence supporting the systematic position of Avialae as a derived clade within Dinosauria is voluminous and derived from multiple independent lines of evidence. In contrast, a paucity of selectively chosen data weakly support, at best, alternative proposals regarding the origin of birds and feathers. Opponents of the theory that birds are dinosaurs have frequently based their criticisms on unorthodox interpretations of paleontological data and misrepresentation of phylogenetic systematic methods. Moreover, arguments against the nested position of Avialae in Dinosauria have often conflated the logically distinct questions of avian origins, the evolution of flight, and the phylogenetic distribution of feathers. Motivated by a Perspectives article with numerous factual inaccuracies that recently appeared in The Auk, we provide a review of the full complement of facts pertaining to the avian origins debate and address the misplaced criticisms raised in that opinion paper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-480
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Avialae
  • Evolution of birds
  • Evolution of feathers
  • Evolution of flight
  • Maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs
  • Phylogenetic systematics


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