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Comparative Anatomy of Birds

Birds are built in the same basic body plan as all other vertebrates including humans. The obvious differences are largely related to flight, such as light bones, reduction in size of some bones, fusion of others and loss of some completely. The skull is light and is dominated by the eye sockets and the jaws which are modified as a beak. The arms and hands of a bird are simplified and used as wings for flight. The wing connects to the shoulder (pectoral) girdle which has an enlarged breastbone (sternum) to support flight muscles. The legs and feet of a bird are simplified; the lower bones have been fused and others lost. The legs connect to the pelvis which is elongated.

Guided tours! For a guided tour of Ontario specimens in the ROM skeleton collections, choose the region of the skeleton you are interested in.

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)


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