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Birds and Reptiles - Vertebrates Slideshow

Bird feathers and leathery feet

We wanted to take a moment and look at some of the physical traits of birds. They are very special vertebrates that have adapted for flight but still hold some of their reptilian traits. Look at the parrot claws on the right side of the image. If you remember the image of the lizard, you will see many similarities in their feet. While birds have developed light and hollow bones, they still have tough, leathery feet with claws. Some of those claws are used to capture prey while others are used to hold fruit. They are still there after millions of years of natural selection.

The left side of the image shows a characteristic that is unique to birds. They have heads, eyes, and mouths like other vertebrates, but are the only ones with feathers. Those feathers are hollow, specialized scales. The bright colors are used for attracting mates or as warnings. Even though there are bright peacocks and parrots out there, many birds are brown or dark colored so that they can hide from predators. For some species, the feathers act as a waterproofing system and help them swim in very cold waters.

Image Credit: Andrew Rader Studios

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