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