Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx lithographica

  • Pronounced:  ark-ee-OP-ter-iks

  • Diet:  Carnivore - Insects, small vertebrates

  • Name Means: 

  • Length:  2 feet (.65 meters)

  • Height: 

  • Weight: 

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Fossil remains for this Dinosaur have been found in Bavaria, Germany

The Archaeopteryx fossil is considered to be one of the most important ever discovered.

Archaeopteryx is considered by many to be the link between dinosaurs and birds. It had teeth and claws, but it also had feathers and wings. There are many questions about this animal that still have not been answered. Did it fly or could it only glide? Some think it used its wings to help it jump higher rather than actually fly.

 

Archaeopteryx was first discovered in 1860 in Bavarian lithographic limestone quarries. Since that time, only five other specimens have been uncovered, with the best specimens being at the Humboldt Museum in Berlin and the British Museum.

Archaeopteryx is widely thought of as the first bird. It looked very similar to some modern birds, and several of the specimens clearly show what appear to be true feathers.

Upon closer examination, however, scientists have found some striking differences between Archeopteryx and modern birds. Archaeopteryx had a long, stiff, bony tail, unlike modern birds. Each wing had two separate fingers on the leading wing edges that were equipped with sharp, curved claws. The biggest differences, however, are in the skull. It didn't have a beak, but rather a true set of jaws that were equipped with many small, sharp teeth. Internally, there were also many differences in the structure of the hipbones, and Archaeopteryx didn't have a breastbone.

Overall, scientists believe that Archaeopteryx was probably a weak flier. Its skeleton is also uncannily similar to Compsognathus  a small dinosaur that was the size of a pigeon that has been found in the same quarries.

Paleontologists have long argued over exactly what Archaeopteryx was - a primitive dinosaur-like bird or a small feathered dinosaur. In the past 10 years an astonishing number of specimens of less primitive birds and small feathered dinosaurs have been found.

The exact taxonomic classification of Archaeopteryx is still hotly debated. That which is shown is one of several used. Another would be: Archaeopteryx giformes, Theropoda, Archaeopterygidae.



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