For the birds: New Scientist (8 May 1999 p10 and 26 June 1999 p6) reports the latest evolutionary theories on how birds took to the air.

One group of scientists claims early birds climbed trees (to get a better view of worms?) and jumped! Those lucky enough to have evolved some wings and feathers, survived to get their worm. The others hit the ground and the worms got them.

The alternative, “ground up” theory of flight involves feathered creatures running along the ground, holding half-developed wings out and flapping until they took off. Present day running birds hold their wings tightly into their bodies, since holding wings out is increasing air resistance and hinders speed.

A recent suggestion is the predatory pounce theory. Feathered creatures took a flying leap to catch some prey and used their feathers to stabilise their bodies so they could use their feet to grasp the prey. Experts in bird aerodynamics who have studied fossils of the so-called “feathered dinosaur” Caudipteryx, point out that its feathers were soft and downy and could not have been used as stabilisers.

Editorial Comment: These speculations involving blundering incomplete creatures and many deaths should challenge proponents of theistic evolution (the idea that God created using the evolutionary death and struggle system). When human beings set out to design flying machines they did make mistakes, but eventually intelligent engineering based on an understanding of the laws of physics prevailed. The Author of the laws of physics got it right first time when He designed living flying machines in the form of birds, bats and flying reptiles.