Many of us in the United States are gathering together today for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
That put me in mind of something I read in Dr. Donald Prothero’s excellent After The Dinosaurs while researching how cats (and therefore mammals) evolved:
Yale paleontologist John Ostrom…compiled a list of evolutionary specializations found only in birds and dromaeosaur dinosaurs such as Deinonychus [the real-life version of “Jurassic Park’s” velociraptor…BJD]…Most vertebrates have a hinge between the shin bone and the first row of ankle bones, which allows them to turn their foot forwards and backwards. But birds, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs have a joint between the first and second row of ankle bones, a condition found in no other animal. The first row of ankle bones often becomes simply a small cap of bone on the end of the shin bone, and in many dinosaurs, it fuses to the shin bone completely. You can see this even in modern birds. The next time you eat the drumstick (shin bone) of a chicken or turkey, notice the little cap of cartilage at the end of the drumstick. That is actually the first row of ankle bones, fused to the end of the shin bone — a unique dinosaurian feature of your Thanksgiving feast!
Check it out while you chow down on the remains of Blue’s distant relative!
Featured image: GPA Photo Archive, CC BY-NC 2.0