I apologize if this question is not written up to standards, I am rather new to this site.

I have been an avid fan of chucklefish's acclaimed sandbox title, Starbound, for a number of years now and one question has always stuck in my mind. Is it plausible for the Avian species to exist? The Avians are described as humanoid with strong features from earth's avian species. They are portrayed as possessing beaks upon their faces, with their bodies covered in a thick layer of fur/feathers. Secondly, they appear to possess near-human sizes and builds, with no apparent wings but instead hand-like graspers with talons upon the fingers and feet.

Is it indeed possible for a bird-like species to evolve on another planet, forsaking wings for arms and appear generally more 'human' under evolutionary pressures?

For further context on the species, the official wiki has a good amount on further info on them: https://starbounder.org/Avian

Art found of such species described

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    $\begingroup$ What is it in the drawing that makes the character "avian"? It looks to me more like the descendant of a very early coelurosaur. Note that in the ancestry of birds, the hands became rigid and unsuitable for manipulating tools long before the advent of flight. The joints of the legs are wrong; in birds, the femur (hip bone) is fixed rigidly to the body wall, and the "knees" bend forwards. Ah, and the eyes are all wrong for a bird; birds have rigid bony sclerotic rings around their eyes. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 6 at 3:46
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP -- I suspect it's the big chicken talons and the eagle beak that makes her look avian! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 6 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ Hi TurnWall! If you haven't already, please take a moment to check out the help center and tour to see what Worldbuilding SE is all about, how to write good queries and responses and what's frowned upon. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 6 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas: The talons could be crocodilian; and lots of animals have beaks, for example, tortoises -- birds don't have a monopoly. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 6 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ In the game, the species is heavily described with connotations of birds. starbounder.org/Avian $\endgroup$ – TurnWall Jan 6 at 3:56

Short Answer:


I don't know anything about Starbound, but I do know geopoetry! And I know there are people somewhat like this in my own world, so the obvious answer is yes, avian sophonts are entirely plausible in secondary / fictional / sci-fi / fantasy worlds.

Long Answer:


In the primary world --- EARTH --- such a person almost certainly could not exist any time up to the present. Evolution of dinosaurs (as AlexP says, coelurosaurs, whence birds) didn't go this way.

We can speculate as to the future evolution of dinosaurs, and posit that perhaps in a few tens of millions of years, domestic chickens could evolve new characteristics (height and humanoid proportions) and reevolve useful hands and keep their feathers into the bargain.

Plausible? Not really. Possible? Sure --- we only have to wait two crore years (20 million) to find out!

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps, if evolution followed this path on their homeworld, with enough time, would the proper humanoid portrayal be able to exist? Or something close to it? $\endgroup$ – TurnWall Jan 6 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ Absolutely! As I said: entirely plausible for a subcreated world. Could they exist in every subcreated world? NO: they could not exist in Middle Earth, because that's Earth mythologised. Could they exist in a specific secondary world? Of course! If you want them in your world, then they exist in your world. That's how fantasy and sci-fi work. You make the world --- you make the rules! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 6 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ That's a good point, with some of these races I really become interested in how they may or may not be able to come about. Thank you for the clarification :) $\endgroup$ – TurnWall Jan 6 at 4:22
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    $\begingroup$ Sure. That's kind of what diachronic geopoesy is all about: figuring out how different races of people (or species of creature) come about through the long ages of a world's evolutionary (or other) history. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 6 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ @l. dutch et al. --- I saw the edit. Note that a crore is 10million, not one million. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 6 at 16:26

Yes... and no. I have a world-building project including avian/paravian-maniraptorial species and an alien species with avian-generally archosaurian qualities. To start when it comes to "humanoid" you can definitely have a large bipedal species with a spine angled more perpendicularly like a bittern or penguin. As our friend before has stated archosaurian hands aren't very mobile for manipulation purposes. only really good for climbing, flight, swimming(in some species) and running. That being said the abilities your looking for may be difficult at best- unless your species is a tangent from early on in the archosaurian tree far before the limbs of the saurian became rigid.

Birds and saurischians have vastly different skeletons and muscular proportions to humans. Meaning you will have to manipulate the proportions and make sense of what bones do what and try to make them fit your means. A "humanoid" bird is gonna have a barrel-like chest and a cinched waste compared to a human. the legs will also be very long(especially the shin). if your looking for human-like facial features id definitely look at how owl, parrots and some galliformes are built and toggle as desired because these animals have heads we are pretty familiar with and may be able to relate to. Of course increase cranium size to reflect intelligence as in primates. owl inside and out owl skull parrot parrot face muscles this will give u a brush up on saurian history-https://drive.google.com/open?id=14S60kFAsnMJ4S_WPmBa_EqwZsS8L7jBx&authuser=0

as far as "one a different planet" I wouldn't count on it. It wouldn't be plausible for me to assume that an animal so close to earth's could evolve millions of light years away unless someone had a hand in it such as genetically savvy alien species who learned how to craft life themselves. You could also do an alt earth project where some extinctions never took place or some did or some other enviernmental factors contributed to a giant manually inclined parrot or other avian species took over a hominid-like niche. if that's the path you choose it could be very interesting.

Id be happy to discuss this further with you if your serious about this- Id type more but I have an art deadline to meet soon. I think "dinosauroids" is a good starting point for you to look into. this is a long held hypothesis about humanoid or hominid-like saurischians evolving dinosauroid 1 dinosauroid 2 Dinosauriod 3

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! This answer really brings a lot to mine, do know Starbound and its avian species are not my creation, was only asking if there's a slim chance they could potentially exist, as I am in a roleplaying community for a game. I've always imagined them to be a hodgepodge of the answers provided, with good old convergent humanoid evolution sprinkled in. $\endgroup$ – TurnWall Jan 6 at 4:59
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer, although one point -- you may not need that much of a cranial capacity bump after all, if the Corvidae are anything to go by that is ;) $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Jan 6 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Would it be better to assume that the Starbound species evolved from some vaguely archosaurian-like feathered beaked animal to arrive at a more humanoid form? $\endgroup$ – TurnWall Jan 6 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @TurnWall yes, you could do a different archosaurian lineage to create your species or develop your own. because regardless you have the hand problem, but the body wont be rocket shaped like it would be in a bird. $\endgroup$ – Moabird Jan 6 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @TurnWall yes, you could do a different archosaurian lineage to create your species or develop your own. because regardless you have the hand problem, but the body wont be rocket shaped like it would be in a bird. If it was me id place whatever pseudo group within the avemetatarsalia lineage and build from there. $\endgroup$ – Moabird Jan 6 at 17:49

it seems like that is the Avians from starbound had feathers for fingers...... (in the description of different Tar based items, the avian PC said that it would not risk touching it if it was not important enough.) this indicates that the Avian race probably had their fingers evolved from the Primary Flight Feathers of birds, which is movable in most modern birds(if you have ever handled pigeons before), and that their fingers would moult, and get stuck off by sticky things. also, Avians have tail feathers, as indicated by Caption. This indicates that the Avian race is likely a type of Pssicatine bird that have became domesticated as pets for a long time. (the Avians actually refer to their arms as wings) the color of their pumage is highly variable, which is a sign of domestication; and their shape resembles more of that of parrots with devolved wings (emu-like wings that sticks out of the front of their bodies.) than that of penguins. So, this is PLAUSIBLE for the "Another planet" argument, but is UNLIKELY to happen here on earth.

  • $\begingroup$ I like to think avians have heavily feathered arms, with hand-like graspers. Realistically, feathers are a heavily engineered piece of evolution with no capable systems built for movement outside of the areas they grow from. $\endgroup$ – TurnWall Jan 11 at 16:12

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