The evolution of birds is thought to have begun in the Jurassic Period, with the earliest birds derived from a clade of theropoda dinosaurs named Paraves. Birds are categorized as a biological class, Aves. The earliest known is Archaeopteryx lithographica, from the Late Jurassic period, though Archaeopteryx is not commonly considered to have been a true bird. Modern phylogenies place birds in the dinosaur clade Theropoda. According to the current consensus, Aves and a sister group, the order Crocodilia, together are the sole living members of an unranked "reptile" clade, the Archosauria.

Phylogenetically, Aves is usually defined as all descendants of the most recent common ancestor of a specific modern bird species (such as the House Sparrow, Passer domesticus), and either Archaeopteryx,[1] or some prehistoric species closer to Neornithes (to avoid the problems caused by the unclear relationships of Archaeopteryx to other theropods).[2] If the latter classification is used then the larger group is termed Avialae. Currently, the relationship between dinosaurs, Archaeopteryx, and modern birds is still under debate.

Similarly, the evolution of birds might have begun in the Triassic Period, from Protoavis. If that is true, then Archaeopteryx may be just a basic flying dinosaur and not a bird.

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