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Science. 1997 Feb 21;275(5303):1109-13.

Mass survival of birds across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary: molecular evidence.

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School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.


The extent of terrestrial vertebrate extinctions at the end of the Cretaceous is poorly understood, and estimates have ranged from a mass extinction to limited extinctions of specific groups. Molecular and paleontological data demonstrate that modern bird orders started diverging in the Early Cretaceous; at least 22 avian lineages of modern birds cross the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Data for several other terrestrial vertebrate groups indicate a similar pattern of survival and, taken together, favor incremental changes during a Cretaceous diversification of birds and mammals rather than an explosive radiation in the Early Tertiary.

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