The Evolution of Birds and Their World-Wide DistributionYears ago, it was thought that the evolution of birds would never be known; the bird skeleton was just too fragile to become fossils. However, in the last 20-30 years hundreds, if not thousands, of the bird fossils have been found and described. The evolution of birds from their ancestors is now relatively well understood. This course will talk about the rise of birds through time and discuss how they have come to be so diverse. We will also discuss the patterns of distribution of birds around the world. Why are the large, flightless birds (Ostrich, Emu, etc.) found only in the southern hemisphere? Why are there no woodpeckers in Australia? Why are African parrots more closely related to New World parrots than they are to Asian parrots? To discuss these kinds of questions we will have to talk (briefly!) about the current taxonomy of the birds of the world. And of course, a major objective of the course is to be amazed and delighted by the birds themselves. Jon Kastendiek grew up in Southern California and received his B.S. from UCLA in 1970. He completed my Ph.D. in marine biology at UCLA in 1975. Jon was a faculty member at the University of Southern California and then a scientist for the California Coastal Commission. He became a faculty member at JMU in 1991. During Jon’s years at JMU, he taught courses in Invertebrate Zoology, Marine Ecology, Evolution and Ornithology. Before and since retiring in 2013 Jon has been fascinated by the beauty, form and diversity of the world’s birds and have tried to see as many of them as he can.
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