Chapter Meeting – November 26
North America’s Oldest Winged Dinosaur: The Evolution of Avian Flight
David Lovelace – Assistant Scientist, UW Geology Museum
The turn of the century saw a new revolution in our understanding of dinosaur evolution and their relationship with modern birds. Hundreds of new specimens, mostly from Asia, have illuminated a surprisingly diverse array of winged (paravian) non-flying feathered dinosaurs. In 2004 an accidental discovery of a tiny meat eating theropod dinosaur started a 15 year project for three undergraduates from the University of Wyoming, two of whom moved to WI to pursue a their doctorate, bringing the project with them. This little dinosaur has been known as ‘Lori’ for many years, and as of July, 2019 was formally named Hesperornithoides miessleri.
miessleri is the oldest known paravian from North America. This study not only includes the description of this animal, but the analysis of its evolutionary relationship within the dinosaur family tree, and has led to novel observations that show the long drawn out history of avian flight evolution. A majority of evolutionary branches on the paravian limb, including the well known Archaeopteryx, Troodon, and Velociraptor; each belongs to a lineage that began with long armed, winged feathered dinosaurs without the ability to fly. Interestingly, each of these lineages, in parallel, later evolved some degree of aerial capability, if not outright flight. However, the true ancestors of birds are on yet another branch of the paravian limb. This drawn out history is unlike that seen in other flying vertebrates such as bats and pterosaurs, whose flight capabilities evolved much faster. This is a compelling story of how science works, and the evolution of our understanding of avian flight.
Dave Lovelace is a vertebrate paleontologist specializing in Triassic-aged rocks of the Rocky Mountain West (252-201 million years ago). He joined the UW Geology Museum team as a research scientist after completing his PhD at UW-Madison’s Department of Geoscience in 2012. Dave combines the study of ancient bones, trackways, and soils to build a picture of what ecosystems looked like 230 million years ago — when the first mammals, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, dinosaurs, and birds evolved. Since becoming a member of the museum team, Dave had made several exciting discoveries including: the oldest known turtle tracks in the world, two mass-death-assemblages of Late Triassic amphibians, and the oldest dinosaur tracks in Wyoming.
Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Lions Field House (270 Elkhorn Road, Williams Bay, WI)
Admission: Free (open to the public)
Bird Walks at Big Foot
Saturdays, throughout the year (9:00 – 11:00 AM)
Join us for a Bird Walk near the shores of beautiful Geneva Lake. We will follow the park’s trails while on the lookout for birds and other wildlife. Meet in the main parking area to the right of the entrance station a little before 9:00 AM. A state park sticker ($28, $13 if age 65 or older) or daily pass ($8, $3 if age 65 or older) is required to enter Big Foot Beach State Park.
For more information regarding fees, please click on the following link: Wisconsin State Park Admission Fees
Contact: Kevin Dickey (262) 729-9702 or email
Location: Big Foot Beach State Park – N1550 S Lakeshore Dr, Lake Geneva, WI