Image courtesy of and credited to Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. (text labels) and http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/museum/events/bigdinos2005/turkey.html (skeletal drawing). Click to enlarge.I discussed the phylogenetic relationships of other organisms a few weeks back when I did a brief overview of cladistics in the first post in a series (I have yet to finish) on science, education, and the media. Using that overview as a starting point, birds (in this case, Meleagris gallopavo, the wild turkey) are dinosaurs in the same way that dogs are canines, mice are mammals, and humans are apes. There are literally dozens (probably hundreds, but I'm going to be conservative on this number until someone asks me to list them) of character traits that unite all birds (avian dinosaurs) with non-avian dinosaurs like the theropods Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and Velociraptor. They can even be linked, via traits they share, with the less likely ones like the horned ceratopsian Triceratops, or the giant sauropod Brachiosaurus.
Every time you hear a mockingbird sing, see a crow in flight, or eat a turkey for dinner, you should rejoice in the knowledge that dinosaurs didn't really go extinct at all: they are still with us today in the form of living birds. More importantly, you should be thankful that once a year, you sit down for a meal with loved ones and get to enjoy eating your delicious dinosaur, instead of having that dinosaur enjoy eating you!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!