free debate

October 16, 2009

Archaeopteryx Revisited

For years, Archaeopteryx has been considered the oldest bird on record. Because it is a transitionary fossil, several scientists have suggested that Archaeopteryx is a hoax. Astronomer Fred Hoyle, for instance, suggested in 1985, that the Archaeopteryx specimens are actually Compsognathus fossils with feather imprints carved in a thin layer of cement. Most of these arguments are ridiculous, and based off of a poor understanding of geology. The calls against the authenticity have never shaken Archaeopteryx's claim of earliest bird.

A new evaluation of the bones has, however. Since the first Archaeopteryx was discovered, there have been 10 more found, including a juvenile. Bone samples were taken from this fossil, and looked at on a microscopic level. Surprisingly, the bone structure did not match that of a fast-growing bird; instead, the bone was dense, and apparently took several years to grow, matching dinosaurs.

However, Archaeopteryx does have well-developed wings, something that only makes sense if this ancient creature could fly. So, the question is: Was Archaeopteryx a bird, or just a feathered, avian dinosaur? The team suggests that, because Archaeopteryx has a similar growth pattern to the dinosaurs it evolved from, that it is not actually a true bird. Despite this, it does still show the transition from dinosaurs to birds, and is a fascinating fossil.

Credit: Science Daily- Archaeopteryx Was Not Very Bird-Like: Inside the First Bird, Surprising Signs of a Dinosaur
Image Credit: Wyoming Dinosaur Center ; Science Daily