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Archaeopteryx 3D skeleton
 
Archaeopteryx 3D skeleton
Bird Cast
Group: Aves
Original Specimen Location: Berlin
Specimen Number:
Age: Late Jurassic
Where Found: Holzmaden
Date Found:
Size: 1ft
Original Material:
Source: RCI
Type: 3D digital reconstruction
3d Scan: yes
 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Archaeopterygiformes
Family: Archaeopterygidae
Genus: Archaeopteryx


A small, primitive bird that lived in the late Jurassic, Archaeopteryx is one of the most important and well-known specimens in the avian-theropod lineage. It does not fit fully into either class, but represents a transitional step with characteristics of both. Numerous anatomical and structural traits link it to modern aves, but the most important of such connections is the appearance of advanced, nearly modern flight feathers. There is significant debate about the origin and purpose of these early feathers, and whether Archaeopteryx was truly flight-capable or merely adapted to arboreal dependent gliding. The size and architecture of the brain case provides evidence that the necessary mental coordination required for some form of flight was indeed present.

In spite of this potential, Archaeopteryx also had some distinctly theropodian attributes: jaws lined with sharp teeth, clawed digits, and a so-called “switch-blade talon” on the feet capable of rapid extension. In addition, bipedalism was also present, which, in some proposed models of flight, may have been required for lift-off.


Archaeopteryx's contribution to evolutionary research cannot be overstated. It is easily one of the most significant discoveries in the field of paleontology, and perhaps even in biology itself.

Type Specimen: BMNH 37001 (1861) in the collection of the Natural History Museum in London.

Type Species: Archaeopteryx lithographica

von Meyer, H. (1861). Archaeopteryx litographica (Vogel-Feder) und Pterodactylus von Solenhofen. Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geognosie, Geologie und Petrefakten-Kunde 1861: 678–679, plate V.

Locality: Solnhofen, Germany.

Scientific Resources:

Burnham, DA. (2007). Archaeopteryx - a re-evaluation suggesting an arboreal habitat and an intermediate stage in trees down origin of flight. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie - Abhandlungen, Vol. 245, No. 1, pp. 33-44.

Mayr, G; Pohl, B; and Peters, DS. (2005). A Well-Preserved Archaeopteryx Specimen with Theropod Features. Science 2, Vol. 310, No. 5753, pp. 1483-1486.

Longrich, N. (2005). Structure and function of hindlimb feathers in Archaeopteryx lithographica. Paleobiology, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 417-431.

Witmer, LM. (2004). Palaeontology: Inside the oldest bird brain. Nature, Vol. 430, 7000, pp. 619-620.

Ostrom, JH. (1974). Archaeopteryx and the Origin of Flight. The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 27-47.

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