This week EEB welcomes Dr. Alexander Dececchi, a William White Postdoctoral Fellow from the Department of Geological Sciences, Queens University:

Up, Up and Away: How birds gained flight and took over the world


The evolution of birds and the origin of flight are two points of extreme interest both to the public and scientific community. Birds are derived theropod (meat eating) dinosaurs and represent the only living lineage of the group whose beginnings date back to around 230 million years ago. Powered flight is a rare occurrence in the history of life, evolving only three times within vertebrates (birds, bats and the extinct pterosaurs) and is suspected to have been a critical evolutionary novelty that has allowed birds to diversify and to colonize all corners of the world. Critical to determining how flight began is to understand the context in which it evolved. My work has been on looking at the ecological settings as well as how other factors such as body size and limb length have influenced the origin of flight. I will also discuss how by modeling flight and related behaviours in birds and their direct ancestors we can gain a greater understanding of how these creatures first got into the air.


I got my undergraduate degree here at Queen’s in Biology, doing an honours thesis under Dr. John Smol and Dr. Guy Narbonne of the Geology department. I then went to do my PhD at McGill University studying under Dr. Hans CE Larsson, in biology with a specialization in palaeontology. After that I moved on to do a postdoc at the University of South Dakota working with Dr. Paula Mabee. Currently I am William E. White Postdoctoral Fellowship in Geological Sciences here at Queen’s as well as a lecturer teaching Vertebrate Paleontology.


The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.

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