What is it about?

In the Mesozoic era, to improve flight, avian dinosaurs began fusing multiple vertebrae together in their spines. By analyzing modern birds, we found that inflammation is responsible for this fusion in the tail. Corticosteroid treatment suppressed the fusion, thereby inhibiting a flight adaptation that arose over a hundred million years ago.

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Why is it important?

Inflammation is usually a response to trauma or disease, but here we find it can drive normal bone development. The process resembles bone fracture healing, and here we show how evolution employed a repair mechanism to generate an important flight adaptation in avian dinosaurs.


I think the future of science is to join as many disciplines as possible to study biological questions. Collaborative projects have probably the greatest chance of making the greatest advances. We hope that more journals follow the PNAS example, where highly multidisciplinary studies are given an appropriate review forum for publication.

Montana State University Bozeman

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Nonpathological inflammation drives the development of an avian flight adaptation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2219757120.
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