What Are Some Common Traits Between Birds and Humans?
Image Citation: Tan, Vinson (photographer). (2019). Wild Wildlife Bird [photography]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/wild-wildlife-bird-juvenile-baby-4050412/
Do you have anything in common with the pigeon pecking for birdseed at the local park? The answer is actually yes!
Some of the similarities between birds and humans are due to them sharing a common ancestor millions and millions of years ago. That ancestor was a primitive, reptile-like creature that didn’t resemble a human or a bird, but still had traits in common with both.
These common-ancestor traits include being a vertebrate (or an animal with a backbone) and being an amniote. Amniotes (which include reptiles, birds, and mammals) are animals that are capable of reproducing without a water source due to evolving internal fertilization (when sperm fertilizes the egg inside the female instead of outside in the environment) and an egg with a thick, relatively hard shell that doesn’t need to stay moist to avoid drying up.
Birds and humans are also both tetrapods, or animals with a four-footed body plan. However, you may have also noticed that both birds and humans are bipedal, meaning they walk on two legs rather than four. Both these groups are still considered tetrapods because they diverged from four-footed ancestors.
In fact, underneath all those feathers, bird wings are made of the same basic anatomical building blocks as a dog’s front legs. The same can be said of a human’s arms; they are simply a redesigned version of the front, walking legs of other tetrapods.
Birds and humans also share some traits that are not due to a common ancestor, but instead something called “convergent evolution”. Convergent evolution occurs when species that are not closely related evolve the same or similar traits due to similar evolutionary pressures.
An example of convergent traits shared by birds and humans is that they are both “warm-blooded” (or endothermic), even though their most recent common ancestor was “cold-blooded” (or ectothermic). Birds and humans also both have an efficient, four-chambered heart rather than a two or three chambered one. Both these traits evolved to allow birds and mammals to live in cold environments and to be more active and athletic.
There are also some behavioral traits shared between birds and humans. Both are quite intelligent compared to reptiles, amphibians, or fish. Birds and humans form complex social groups, often involving complex vocal communication. Both groups usually care for their offspring for an extended period of time as well, as opposed to most ectothermic animals, which don’t offer a high level of parental care.