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Reconstructing the flight capabilities of fossil birds

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

One of the most compelling unanswered questions in evolutionary biology is exactly when, how and why bird flight evolved. Key to unravelling the origins of bird flight is the ability to bring fossil birds, such as Archaeopteryx, and their feathered ancestors (proto-birds) to life. One way of gaining insights into the flight capabilities of fossils is to use theoretical approaches based upon aerodynamics or biomechanical principles. Biometric parameters taken from the fossils are fed into these theoretical models and flight performance bounds determined. The overarching aim of this project is to reconstruct the flight ability of feathered fossils using a suite of theoretical approaches to inform our understanding of the evolution of flight in birds.

Funding Notes

This project has a Band 1 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website. For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website. Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


• Dyke GJ, Nudds RL, & Rayner JMV (2006) Flight of Sharovipteryx mirabilis: the world's first delta-winged glider. J. Evol. Biol. 19(4): 1040-1043.
• Nudds RL & Dyke GJ (2009) Forelimb posture in dinosaurs and the evolution of the avian flapping flight-stroke. Evolution 63(4): 994-1002.
• Nudds RL & Dyke GJ (2010) Narrow Primary Feather Rachises in Confuciusornis and Archaeopteryx Suggest Poor Flight Ability. Science 328(5980): 887-889.
• Wang X, Nudds RL, Palmer C, & Dyke GJ (2012) Size scaling and stiffness of avian primary feathers: implications for the flight of Mesozoic birds. J. Evol. Biol. 25(3): 547-555.
• Burgers P & Chiappe LM (1999) The wing of Archaeopteryx as a primary thrust generator. Nature 399: 60-62.

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