Archaeopteryx, one of the first birds - an intermediate between dinosaurs and birds?

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx



Archaeopteryx
Click here for more Archaeopteryx Pictures

Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Aves
  Order Archaeopterygiformes
  Family Archaeopterygidae
  Genus Archaeopteryx
Archaeopteryx is the earliest and most primitive bird currently definitely known (Protoavis has been claimed as an earlier bird, however many scientists dispute this). The name "Archaeopteryx" (which, as is often the case, is derived from Ancient Greek) means "ancient wing", although it is sometimes also known by the German name of "Urvogel" which means "first bird".

Archaeopteryx lived in the Jurassic period between approximately 150 million and 145 million years ago. fossils of the animal have been found in what is today southern Germany, but was at the time an archipelago of islands in a warm tropical sea.

Many scientists believe that Archaeopteryx is a transitional fossil between birds and dinosaurs, and its discovery has contributed greatly to the debate about evolution. The first complete specimen of Archaeopteryx was discovered in 1861, just two years after Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection", and seemed to be a spectacular confirmation of his ideas. In particular, the idea that birds were descended from Theropod dinosaurs, was proposed by T. H. Huxley in 1868.

Archaeopteryx fossil
Archaeopteryx seems to have grown to a maximum of about 1 foot 8 inches (50 centimeters) in length, about the size of a medium-sized modern bird. It seems to have definitely had feathers (see below) as well as some other avian features (including a wishbone and a partially reversed first toe), a larger brain than most dinosaurs (again more like birds), but Archaeopteryx also retained several features similar to Theropod dinosaurs. Dinosaur-like features included its small teeth and a long bony tail.

To date, less than a dozen specimens of Archaeopteryx have been found, and many of these fossils appear to include evidence of feathers. Noteably, Archaeopteryx has flight feathers, so it is thought likely that these may have evolved from simpler feathers in its as yet undiscovered ancestors. Over the years, there have been a number of controversies and debates relating to Archaeopteryx, including whether it should be classified as a bird at all, and how it relates to modern birds (currently, many scientists believe that Archaeopteryx is a close relative of the ancestor of modern birds, rather than the direct ancestor).

One of the key points of scientific interest in Archaeopteryx is what it can teach us about the evolution of flying in birds. One theory is that flight evolved from fast-running after insects and other small prey such as small lizards (an idea first proposed by Samuel Wendell Williston). The main alternative theory is that flight began by jumping or gliding down from trees (this theory was first proposed by Othniel C. Marsh). Although it seems pretty clear that Archaeopteryx could fly, it is not entirely clear which of these two theories it provides evidence for - Archaeopteryx does not seem particularly well-suited for either running or for perching in trees. We do know however that there were few in the local environment at the Archaeopteryx was alive, although it is of course possible that Archaeopteryx simply used shrubs, cliffs, and whatever trees were available.

Archaeopteryx Timeline:



Archaeopteryx was an early bird with many dinosaur-like features that lived between 150 and 145 million years ago

Archaeopteryx was an early bird with many dinosaur-like features that lived between 150 and 145 million years ago


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See Also

Archaeopteryx Books


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ARCHAEOPTERYX: The Icon of Evolution
By Peter Wellnhofer

Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil
Released: 2009-09-01
Hardcover (208 pages)

ARCHAEOPTERYX: The Icon of Evolution
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Dr. Wellnhofer is the world's authority on the 150-million-year-old Archaeopteryx and he has been so for over thirty years. He has published major studies on many specimens of Archaeopteryx, has curated exhibitions about the Urvogel, written popular accounts, lectured extensively, and participated in media-related interviews. Archaeopteryx is what I like to describe as a "paleontological Mona Lisa". Its priceless fossils - up to now ten skeletal specimens and a single feather imprint discovered during the last 145 years - have had a tremendous significance in our understanding of evolution, and their impact has gone way beyond science and into social grounds. Dr. Wellnhofer's book narrates the history of the discoveries of the individual specimens, and the stories behind them - those of the collectors, dealers, museum curators and scholars whose lives became entangled with these discoveries. It includes chapters of the world-famous Solnhofen lithographic limestone, covering aspects of its geology and special fossil preservation, and interpretations of the ancient environment inhabited by Archaeopteryx. The core of the book includes detailed descriptions and illustrations of each specimen. These and other chapters discuss the different interpretations regarding the size, growth and life history, plumage, physiology, and life style. Because Archaeopteryx has played a key role in discussions about the origin of birds and of their flight, the book also adresses the rise of birds - highlighting the evidence that supports the evolutionary connection between birds and the carnivorous theropod dinosaurs - and the controversial issue of the beginning of avian flight. The text is written for a general audience and is thoroughly supplemented by photographs, drawings, diagrams, and maps, and detailed notes and references. There has never been a book like this one and no one else could write it today.
Archaeopteryx (Finding Dinosaurs) (Focus Readers: Finding Dinosaurs: Navigator Level)
By Rebecca E. Hirsch

Focus Readers
Paperback (32 pages)

Archaeopteryx (Finding Dinosaurs) (Focus Readers: Finding Dinosaurs: Navigator Level)
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Explores what scientists have uncovered about Archaeopteryx. Colorful photos and illustrations help bring each dinosaur to life as easy-to-read text guides readers through important discoveries about its appearance, diet, and habitat.
Archaeopteryx (Albuquerque Trilogy)
By Dan Darling

Curiosity Quills Press
Paperback (338 pages)

Archaeopteryx (Albuquerque Trilogy)
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John Stick, zoo keeper and giant, just wants to sit alone in a dark room with his pet tarantula. However, when ten thousand birds fall dead from the New Mexican sky, the woman he loves, an ornithologist with severe facial deformity, begs him to decipher the cause. He grudgingly agrees, a decision that plunges him into a tangle of weirdness as old as the American Southwest.

Stick's investigation reveals that the birds' mass death is an offshoot of a much larger conflict. On one side, the Good Friends, an underground railroad for undocumented immigrants, wants Stick to oust the man they believe responsible for killing the birds and persecuting immigrants. This same man leads The Minutemen Militia, which covets Stick's expertise in handling their genetically mutated immigrant-tracking monsters. Meanwhile, a beautiful animal theologian tries to seduce Stick into believing his existence is key to balancing an off-kilter universe. Shady characters whisper of chupacabras loose in the desert. The exsanguinated corpses of strange beasts begin to turn up, some of them Stick's close pals. At the center of it all lurks an enigmatic antagonist who, so they say, has harnessed the power of God in an ancient hot springs and is using it to herald doomsday.

Stick's journey upends his stable life, shakes apart his fragile relationships, and sets him on a collision course with his family's secret ancestry. Ultimately, as chupacabra-like monsters, Minutemen, and Good Friends head toward a final showdown, Stick must make a hard choice about his own identity and values.

Archaeopteryx (Exploring Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures)
By Susan H. Gray

Core Learning Library
Released: 2014-01-01
Kindle Edition (32 pages)

Archaeopteryx (Exploring Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures)
 
Product Description:
The earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx first appeared about 150 million years ago. Kids will be introduced to a creature that was no larger than a crow, but that proved remarkably important to scientists searching for answers about the ancient relatives of modern-day birds.
Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight
By Pat Shipman

Simon & Schuster
Released: 1999-01-15
Paperback (336 pages)

Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight
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In 1861, just a few years after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, a scientist named Hermann von Meyer made an amazing discovery. Hidden in the Bavarian region of Germany was a fossil skeleton so exquisitely preserved that its wings and feathers were as obvious as its reptilian jaws and tail. This transitional creature offered tangible proof of Darwin's theory of evolution.
Hailed as the First Bird, Archaeopteryx has remained the subject of heated debates for the last 140 years. Are birds actually living dinosaurs? Where does the fossil record really lead? Did flight originate from the "ground up" or "trees down"? Pat Shipman traces the age-old human desire to soar above the earth and to understand what has come before us. Taking Wing is science as adventure story, told with all the drama by which scientific understanding unfolds.
Archaeopteryx: The First Bird (Graphic Dinosaurs)
By Rob Shone

Brand: Powerkids Pr
Library Binding (32 pages)

Archaeopteryx: The First Bird (Graphic Dinosaurs)
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Product Description:
The name archaeopteryx means ancient wing. Believed to be an ancient ancestor of modern birds, the archaeopteryx lived 15 million years ago during the Jurassic Period. Though a relative of birds, archaeopteryx had many dinosaur-like features – a long bony tail, sharp teeth, and hand-like claws. This enchanting volume follows an archaeopteryx from its birth to maturity. Growing up was challenging for this reptile-bird, avoiding predators and competing for a mate are just some of the difficulties it encountered. This lively book combines an exciting story with fascinating facts.
Archaeopteryx, the Primordial Bird: A Case of Fossil Forgery
By Fred Hoyle

Christopher Davies
Hardcover (135 pages)

Archaeopteryx, the Primordial Bird: A Case of Fossil Forgery
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135p hardback with fresh dustjacket, excellent clean copy, without name or stamp
Songs of the Archaeopteryx: Tales of People...and the Airplanes Who Love Them
By Keoki Gray

Booklocker.com, Inc.
Paperback (206 pages)

Songs of the Archaeopteryx: Tales of People...and the Airplanes Who Love Them
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Songs of the Archaeopteryx is a collection of aviation-themed stories by Keoki Gray. While the focus is on characters, there is rich detail that provides a glimpse into the remarkable world of general aviation, flight training and aerobatics.
A Jurassic Mystery: Archaeopteryx (Dinosaurs) (v. 2)
Brand: Abbeville Kids
Hardcover (64 pages)

A Jurassic Mystery: Archaeopteryx (Dinosaurs) (v. 2)
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The second volume in a series of six comic-book adventures that bring the dinosaurs back to life.

A Jurassic Mystery, the second title in Abbeville's Dinosaurs series, features over 60 pages in full color. It is a paleontological whodunit set in the late Jurassic period, 150 million years ago, at a place that now lies in Germany. It investigates the suspicious death of an archaeopteryx, an early species of bird descended from the dinosaurs.

In Abbeville’s Dinosaurs series, a talented artist and a noted paleontologist have teamed up to re-create the vanished world of the dinosaurs for young readers. Each volume in the series tells the story, in comic-book form, of a different dinosaur living in its particular geological time and place. The narrative is entertaining, while all the details of the dinosaur’s behavior and its encounters with other species are rendered with scientific accuracy. At the back of each volume, meanwhile, are several short essays, abundantly illustrated with original drawings and photographs of fossils, that explain more about the creatures and geographical settings encountered in the comic.
Archaeopteryx (Dinosaur Lib Series)
By Rupert Oliver

Rourke Pub Group
Library Binding (23 pages)
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Describes the physical characteristics, habits, and natural environment of the winged dinosaur known as Archaeopteryx.


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