Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and the American holiday wouldn’t be the same without moist slabs of gravy-drenched dinosaur meat on the table. Of course, our species was not the first to dine on dinosaur, not by a long shot, but we do it with a bit more style than the alligators, lice, sharks, and other creatures I mention over in my new Slate article on Mesozoic dinosaur feasts.
Given the nature of the celebration, it’s only fitting that I present some leftovers, too – some of my favorite posts about prehistoric birds. Imagine what the giant Eocene bird Diatryma, or South America’s fearsome terror birds, could contribute to the turducken trend. The fossil record has also introduced us to huge, colorful penguins and pumped-up storks that probably squabbled with island-dwelling hominins over dwarf elephant carcasses, though neither of them was quite so strange as the banana-winged Xenicibis. Not every prehistoric bird is known from bones, though – feathers and eggshells can tell us about ancient birdlife, as well. (And I should mention that if you happen to be in the mood for fresher fare, this new paper about how feathery dinosaur arms evolved to become true wings is worth a read.) Indeed, birds have been carrying on the dinosaur legacy ever since the end-Cretaceous cataclysm wiped out their relatives 66 million years ago, and their relationship to Velociraptor and kin can be clearly seen in the anatomy of your holiday bird.