full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Carl Zimmer: How did feathers evolve?

Unscramble the Blue Letters

Feathers are some of the most rmbaaerlke things ever made by an animal. They are gorgeous in their complexity, delicate in their construction, and yet strong enough to hold a bird thousands of feet in the air. Like all things in nature, feathers evolved over millions of yares into their merdon form. It could be hard to imagine how this could have happened. After all, what did the intermediate forms look like? What good is half a wing, festooned with half-feathers? Thanks to science, we now know that birds are living dinosaurs. You can see the kinship in their skeletons. Certain dinosaurs share some anatomical details with birds found in no other analims, such as wish bones. And in the late 1990s, paleontologists started digging up some compelling spourpt for that idea: dinosaurs with bits of feathers still preserved on their bodies. Since then, scientists have found dzones of species of dinosaurs with remnants of feathers. Some were as small as pigeons, and some were the size of a school bus. If you look at how they are related on a filmay tree, the evolution of feathers doesn't seem quite so iismsolpbe. The most distant feathered relatives of birds had straight feathers that looked like wires. Then these wires slpit apart, producing simple branches. In many dinosaur lgeaiens, these simple feathers evolved into more intricate ones, including some that we see today on birds. At the same time, the feathers spread across the bodeis of dinosaurs, turning from sparse patches of fuzz into dense plumage, which even extended down to their legs. A few filssos even preserved some of the molecules that give feathers color. They reveal a beifatuul range of colors: glossy, dark plumage, reminiscent of crows, alternating strips of black and white, or splashes of bhigrt red. Some dusarnois had high cestrs on their heads, and others had long, dramatic tail feathers. Now, none of these dinosaurs could use their fatehres to fly - their arms were too short and the rest of their bodies were far too heavy. But, birds don't just use feathers to fly. A woodcock uses feathers to blend in prtlfceey with its forest backdrop. An osrctih stretches its wings over its nest to sahde its ynoug. A peacock displays its magnificent tail feathers to attract paenhes. Feathers could have served these ftnoncuis for dinosaurs too. Exactly how feathered dinosaurs took flight is still a bit of a mystery. But if a small-feathered dinosaur flapped its arms as it ran up an iclnine, its feathers would have provided etxra lift to help it run faster. This ainccdet of pyihcss might have led to the evolution of longer dinosaur arms, which would let them run faster and even leap short distances through the air. Eventually, their arms stretched out into wigns. Only then, perhaps 50 million years after the first wiry feathers evolved, did feathers lift those dinosaurs into the sky.

Open Cloze

Feathers are some of the most __________ things ever made by an animal. They are gorgeous in their complexity, delicate in their construction, and yet strong enough to hold a bird thousands of feet in the air. Like all things in nature, feathers evolved over millions of _____ into their ______ form. It could be hard to imagine how this could have happened. After all, what did the intermediate forms look like? What good is half a wing, festooned with half-feathers? Thanks to science, we now know that birds are living dinosaurs. You can see the kinship in their skeletons. Certain dinosaurs share some anatomical details with birds found in no other _______, such as wish bones. And in the late 1990s, paleontologists started digging up some compelling _______ for that idea: dinosaurs with bits of feathers still preserved on their bodies. Since then, scientists have found ______ of species of dinosaurs with remnants of feathers. Some were as small as pigeons, and some were the size of a school bus. If you look at how they are related on a ______ tree, the evolution of feathers doesn't seem quite so __________. The most distant feathered relatives of birds had straight feathers that looked like wires. Then these wires _____ apart, producing simple branches. In many dinosaur ________, these simple feathers evolved into more intricate ones, including some that we see today on birds. At the same time, the feathers spread across the ______ of dinosaurs, turning from sparse patches of fuzz into dense plumage, which even extended down to their legs. A few _______ even preserved some of the molecules that give feathers color. They reveal a _________ range of colors: glossy, dark plumage, reminiscent of crows, alternating strips of black and white, or splashes of ______ red. Some _________ had high ______ on their heads, and others had long, dramatic tail feathers. Now, none of these dinosaurs could use their ________ to fly - their arms were too short and the rest of their bodies were far too heavy. But, birds don't just use feathers to fly. A woodcock uses feathers to blend in _________ with its forest backdrop. An _______ stretches its wings over its nest to _____ its _____. A peacock displays its magnificent tail feathers to attract _______. Feathers could have served these _________ for dinosaurs too. Exactly how feathered dinosaurs took flight is still a bit of a mystery. But if a small-feathered dinosaur flapped its arms as it ran up an _______, its feathers would have provided _____ lift to help it run faster. This ________ of _______ might have led to the evolution of longer dinosaur arms, which would let them run faster and even leap short distances through the air. Eventually, their arms stretched out into _____. Only then, perhaps 50 million years after the first wiry feathers evolved, did feathers lift those dinosaurs into the sky.

Solution

  1. accident
  2. animals
  3. perfectly
  4. beautiful
  5. split
  6. extra
  7. incline
  8. impossible
  9. modern
  10. feathers
  11. physics
  12. years
  13. functions
  14. dozens
  15. support
  16. remarkable
  17. family
  18. dinosaurs
  19. shade
  20. crests
  21. bright
  22. wings
  23. young
  24. fossils
  25. ostrich
  26. lineages
  27. peahens
  28. bodies

Original Text

Feathers are some of the most remarkable things ever made by an animal. They are gorgeous in their complexity, delicate in their construction, and yet strong enough to hold a bird thousands of feet in the air. Like all things in nature, feathers evolved over millions of years into their modern form. It could be hard to imagine how this could have happened. After all, what did the intermediate forms look like? What good is half a wing, festooned with half-feathers? Thanks to science, we now know that birds are living dinosaurs. You can see the kinship in their skeletons. Certain dinosaurs share some anatomical details with birds found in no other animals, such as wish bones. And in the late 1990s, paleontologists started digging up some compelling support for that idea: dinosaurs with bits of feathers still preserved on their bodies. Since then, scientists have found dozens of species of dinosaurs with remnants of feathers. Some were as small as pigeons, and some were the size of a school bus. If you look at how they are related on a family tree, the evolution of feathers doesn't seem quite so impossible. The most distant feathered relatives of birds had straight feathers that looked like wires. Then these wires split apart, producing simple branches. In many dinosaur lineages, these simple feathers evolved into more intricate ones, including some that we see today on birds. At the same time, the feathers spread across the bodies of dinosaurs, turning from sparse patches of fuzz into dense plumage, which even extended down to their legs. A few fossils even preserved some of the molecules that give feathers color. They reveal a beautiful range of colors: glossy, dark plumage, reminiscent of crows, alternating strips of black and white, or splashes of bright red. Some dinosaurs had high crests on their heads, and others had long, dramatic tail feathers. Now, none of these dinosaurs could use their feathers to fly - their arms were too short and the rest of their bodies were far too heavy. But, birds don't just use feathers to fly. A woodcock uses feathers to blend in perfectly with its forest backdrop. An ostrich stretches its wings over its nest to shade its young. A peacock displays its magnificent tail feathers to attract peahens. Feathers could have served these functions for dinosaurs too. Exactly how feathered dinosaurs took flight is still a bit of a mystery. But if a small-feathered dinosaur flapped its arms as it ran up an incline, its feathers would have provided extra lift to help it run faster. This accident of physics might have led to the evolution of longer dinosaur arms, which would let them run faster and even leap short distances through the air. Eventually, their arms stretched out into wings. Only then, perhaps 50 million years after the first wiry feathers evolved, did feathers lift those dinosaurs into the sky.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
feathers evolved 2
tail feathers 2
run faster 2

Important Words

  1. accident
  2. air
  3. alternating
  4. anatomical
  5. animal
  6. animals
  7. arms
  8. attract
  9. backdrop
  10. beautiful
  11. bird
  12. birds
  13. bit
  14. bits
  15. black
  16. blend
  17. bodies
  18. bones
  19. branches
  20. bright
  21. bus
  22. color
  23. compelling
  24. complexity
  25. construction
  26. crests
  27. crows
  28. dark
  29. delicate
  30. dense
  31. details
  32. digging
  33. dinosaur
  34. dinosaurs
  35. displays
  36. distances
  37. distant
  38. dozens
  39. dramatic
  40. eventually
  41. evolution
  42. evolved
  43. extended
  44. extra
  45. family
  46. faster
  47. feathered
  48. feathers
  49. feet
  50. festooned
  51. flapped
  52. flight
  53. fly
  54. forest
  55. form
  56. forms
  57. fossils
  58. functions
  59. fuzz
  60. give
  61. glossy
  62. good
  63. gorgeous
  64. happened
  65. hard
  66. heads
  67. heavy
  68. high
  69. hold
  70. imagine
  71. impossible
  72. incline
  73. including
  74. intermediate
  75. intricate
  76. kinship
  77. late
  78. leap
  79. led
  80. legs
  81. lift
  82. lineages
  83. living
  84. long
  85. longer
  86. looked
  87. magnificent
  88. million
  89. millions
  90. modern
  91. molecules
  92. mystery
  93. nature
  94. nest
  95. ostrich
  96. paleontologists
  97. patches
  98. peacock
  99. peahens
  100. perfectly
  101. physics
  102. pigeons
  103. plumage
  104. preserved
  105. producing
  106. ran
  107. range
  108. red
  109. related
  110. relatives
  111. remarkable
  112. reminiscent
  113. remnants
  114. rest
  115. reveal
  116. run
  117. school
  118. science
  119. scientists
  120. served
  121. shade
  122. share
  123. short
  124. simple
  125. size
  126. skeletons
  127. sky
  128. small
  129. sparse
  130. species
  131. splashes
  132. split
  133. spread
  134. started
  135. straight
  136. stretched
  137. stretches
  138. strips
  139. strong
  140. support
  141. tail
  142. thousands
  143. time
  144. today
  145. tree
  146. turning
  147. white
  148. wing
  149. wings
  150. wires
  151. wiry
  152. woodcock
  153. years
  154. young