Archaeopteryx ‭(‬Ancient wing‭)‬

Short Info

Archaeopteryx ‭(‬Ancient wing‭)‬

Phonetic : Ar-kay-op-teh-rix.

Named By : Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer‭ ‬-‭ ‬1861

Diet : Carnivore / Insectivore

Size : Estimated 50cm meters long

Type of Dinosaur : Small Theropod

Type Species : A.‭ ‬lithographica‭ (‬type‭)‬.‭ A. albersdoerferi.

Found in : Various locations in Germany

When it Lived : Late Jurassic, 147 million years ago

Archaeopteryx (/,a:rki:’apt@rIks”/; meaning. “old-wing”) often called through it’s German term, “Urvogel” (lit. “original bird” or “first bird’), is a species of dinosaurs that resemble birds. The name comes from the Greek arkhaios (archaios) meaning “ancient”, and pterux (pteryx) is a reference to “feather” or “wing”. In the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century Archaeopteryx is generally believed by paleontologists as well as most reference works as being the oldest bird known (member of the family Avialae). More avialans of older age have been identified, such as Anchiornis, Xiaotingia, and Aurornis.

Archaeopteryx was a species that lived during its time in the Late Jurassic around 150 million years ago in the region that is today the southern part of Germany in a period in which Europe existed as an archipelago made up of islands that were located in a shallow warm tropical ocean, which was much closer to the equator that it is today. Similar in size to an Eurasian magpie and the largest of them likely to reach the size of ravens. The most massive species Archaeopteryx could be as large as 0.5 meters (1 8 inches) by length. Despite their tiny size, their broad wings and the inferred ability to glide or fly Archaeopteryx had more similarities with other smaller Mesozoic dinosaurs than modern birds. Particularly, they shared the following characteristics with other dinosaurs, including dromaeosaurids and troodontids: jaws that had tooth-like teeth; three fingers that had claws and a long boney tail, hyperextensible 2nd toes (“killing claw”) feathers (which also indicate warm bloodedness) and other characteristics of the skull.


Archaeopteryx lithographica (Berlin specimen)
H. Raab (User: Vesta), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


These characteristics These features make Archaeopteryx an ideal candidate for an intermediate fossil that bridges the gap between birds and non-avian dinosaurs. This means that Archaeopteryx is a key player not just in studying the origins of birds but also in the study of dinosaurs as well. The name was derived from one feather that was discovered in 1861. the identification of which has caused controversy. The was the same year that first fully complete piece of Archaeopteryx was revealed. Since then 10 more fossils from Archaeopteryx have been discovered. While there is some variation between these fossils, the majority of experts consider every single fossil that has been found to be part of one species, though this remains a subject of debate.

Archaeopteryx was believed as the first stage in the evolution bird tree. Its characteristics have helped define what it’s being a bird like its massive, long front legs. But, in recent times the discovery of tiny, feathered dinosaurs has led to a puzzle for paleontologists, posing questions regarding which species are the ancestral ancestors of the modern bird and what are their relatives.


Archaeopteryx lithographica (Cast of Maxberg Specimen)
H. Raab (User:Vesta), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The majority of these fossils show feathers. Since these feathers are an advanced type (flight feathers) they are evidence that feathers evolved prior to they reached the Late Jurassic. The first animal of Archaeopteryx was found just two years ago, after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Archaeopteryx was believed to be a proof of Darwin’s theories, and has since been a major evidence of the origins of birds as well as the transitional fossils debate and the proof of evolution.

In the past 12 body fossils belonging to Archaeopteryx have been discovered. All fossils originate from limestone deposits which were quarried for centuries in the vicinity of Solnhofen, Germany.


Archaeopteryx lithographica (Eichstätter Specimen)
H. Raab (User:Vesta), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The first discovery was a single feather. It was found in the year 1861 or 1860 and was recorded during 1861 by Hermann von Meyer. It is currently housed at the Natural History Museum of Berlin. While it was initially the Holotype, there was evidence that it may not have come of the same animal like the fossils of the body. In 2019 , it was revealed that laser scanning had revealed the shape of the feather (which was not apparent for some time since the feather was identified) and the feather appeared to be incongruous with the morphology of other Archaeopteryx feathers and led to an assumption that the feather came from a different dinosaur. The conclusion was questioned in the year 2020, as unlikely, and the feather was recognized on the basis its morphology, which suggested it could have been an upper primary feather.

This skeleton was the first, also known by the name of London Specimen (BMNH 37001) was found in 1861 in Langenaltheim, Germany, and maybe given to the local physician Karl Haberlein in return for medical treatment. Then, he offered the skeleton for PS700 (roughly the equivalent of PS83,000 in 2020[18The figure was approximately PS83,000 in 2020[18) in 2020 to the Natural History Museum in London and it is there today. It was missing a large portion of its head and neck and neck, it was described as early in the year 1863 Richard Owen as Archaeopteryx macrura which allowed for the possibility that it was not part of an identical species to feathers. In the next volume of his On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin described how certain authors believed “that the whole class of birds came suddenly into existence during the eocene period; but now we know, on the authority of Professor Owen, that a bird certainly lived during the deposition of the upper greensand; and still more recently, that strange bird, the Archaeopteryx, with a long lizard-like tail, bearing a pair of feathers on each joint, and with its wings furnished with two free claws, has been discovered in the oolitic slates of Solnhofen. Hardly any recent discovery shows more forcibly than this how little we as yet know of the former inhabitants of the world.”

A Greek term archaios (arkhaios) is a reference to “primeval, ancient”. Pteryx typically refers to “wing”, but it could also mean “feather”. Meyer mentioned this when he described. In the beginning, he was referring only to a feather, which looked like an modern bird’s feather Remex (wing feather) however, Meyer had heard about and seen a drawing from this London specimen, which he refers as an “Skelett eines mit ahnlichen Federn bedeckten Tieres” (“skeleton of an animal that is covered with comparable feathers”). In German the ambiguity is clarified by the word Schwinge which doesn’t necessarily refer to a wing that is used to fly. Urschwinge was the preferred word for Archaeopteryx by German researchers in the late nineteenth century. In English”ancient pinion” provides a rough idea of this.

The Berlin Specimen (HMN 1880/81) was found in 1874 or in 1875 on the Blumenberg close to Eichstatt, Germany, by farmer Jakob Niemeyer. He offered this valuable fossil for the cash to purchase the cow in 1876 to the innkeeper Johann Dorr, who again offered the fossil to Ernst Otto Haberlein, the son of K. Haberlein. It was put up for auction between 1877 and 1881 with potential buyers like O. C. Marsh of Yale University’s Peabody Museum, it eventually was purchased for 20000 Goldmark by Berliner’s Natural History Museum, where it is currently on display. The deal was financed through Ernst Werner von Siemens, the founder of the famous business named after him. It was first described as early as 1884, by Wilhelm Dames, it is the largest specimen and the only one with heads that are complete. In 1897, it was dubbed in 1897 by Dames as a brand new type, A. siemensii; Although it is frequently thought of as an alternative to A. Lithographica, a number of studies in the 21st century have determined this is an entirely distinct species that encompasses those of Berlin, Munich, and Thermopolis specimens.

The torso is composed of a torso. it is the Maxberg Specimen (S5) was discovered in 1956 close to Langenaltheim It was discovered by the attention by Professor Florian Heller in the year 1958, and published by him in the year 1959. It is lacking its tail and head but the rest of the skeleton remains intact. While it was previously displayed in the Maxberg Museum in Solnhofen, it’s currently not there. It was owned by Eduard Opitsch, who loaned it to the museum up until 1974. After his death in the year 1991 the museum discovered the object was missing, and could be stolen or sold.

The Haarlem Specimen (TM 6428/29 Also called Teylers Specimen) Teylers Specimen) was discovered in 1855 in the vicinity of Riedenburg, Germany, and identified as an Pterodactylus crassipes by 1857 Meyer. It was classified in 1970 in 1970 by John Ostrom and is currently in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem The Netherlands. It was the first specimen to be discovered, but was not properly classified in the early days. It’s also among the most incomplete specimens, composed of bone fragments from the limbs, isolated cervical vertebrae and ribs. In 2017, it was designated as a distinct Genus Ostromia which was thought to be more closely with Anchiornis which is from China.

The Eichstatt Specimen (JM 2257) was found in 1951 close to Workerszell, Germany, and was described by Peter Wellnhofer in 1974. The specimen is now in the Jura Museum in Eichstatt, Germany, it is the tiniest known specimen and has the second highest head. It could be a distinct species (Jurapteryx Recurva) or a species (A. Recurva).

It is believed that the Solnhofen specimen (unnumbered sample) was found in the 1970s in Eichstatt, Germany, and was described by Wellnhofer in 1988. Currently located at the Burgermeister-Muller-Museum in Solnhofen, it originally was classified as Compsognathus by an amateur collector, the same mayor Friedrich Muller after which the museum is named. It is the biggest specimen that is known, and could be part of a different species or genus called Wellnhoferia grandis. It’s missing only a portion from the tail, neck backbone, as well as the head.

The Munich Specimen (BSP 1999 I 50, formerly known as the Solenhofer-Aktien-Verein Specimen) was discovered on 3 August 1992 near Langenaltheim and described in 1993 by Wellnhofer. It is now housed in the Palaontologisches Museum Munchen in Munich where it was purchased to in the year 1999 at 1.9 millions Deutschmark. It was believed at first to have been a bony bone sternum was later found into a part of coracoidhowever, a cartilaginous sternum could have existed. The front face is absent. It was used as the basis of the distinct species A. bavarica, however newer studies suggest that it is part of A. siemensii.

An eighth fragmentary specimen was found in the year 1990, in the Mornsheim Formation in Daiting, Suevia. This is why it is known as Daiting Specimen. Daiting Specimen, and had been discovered in 1996 from a casting, which was briefly presented by the Naturkundemuseum in Bamberg. The original was acquired by Palaeontologist Raimund Albertsdorfer in the year 2009. It was displayed in the world’s first public display along with six other fossils that were original to Archaeopteryx in the Munich Mineral Show in October 2009. This Daiting Specimen was subsequently named Archaeopteryx albersdoerferi by Kundrat and al. (2018).

Another fragmentary fossil was discovered in the year 2000. It is privately owned and, from 2004, it has been loaned from the Burgermeister-Muller Museum in Solnhofen the museum is known as the Burgermeister-Muller Specimen. The institute officialy refers to it under the title of “Exemplar of the families Ottman & Steil, Solnhofen”. Since the fragment is the remnants of a single archaeopteryx wing The name that is commonly used for the fragment refers to it as “chicken wing”.

In an individual collection in Switzerland The Thermopolis specimen (WDC CSG 100) was found in Bavaria and reported as early as 2005 by Mayr, Pohl, and Peters. It was donated to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming, it is the most well-preserved feet and head; however, the majority of the neck as well as the lower jaw haven’t been preserved. The “Thermopolis” specimen was identified in a 2 December 2005 in a Science Journal article that reads in the form of “A well-preserved Archaeopteryx specimen with theropod features” It illustrates that Archaeopteryx did not have a reversed toe, a characteristic of all birds that limits the ability of perching on branches and suggesting the existence of a terrestrial or trunk-climbing life. 30] The findings have been taken as proof of theropod ancestral lineage. in 1988 Gregory S. Paul claimed to have discovered an evidence that exhibited a large toe, but it was not confirmed and accepted by other researchers prior to the time that the Thermopolis specimen was identified. “Until now, the feature was thought to belong only to the species’ close relatives, the deinonychosaurs.” This Thermopolis Specimen has been designated the genus Archaeopteryx siemensii from 2007. The specimen is believed to be an extremely complete, most well-preserved Archaeopteryx remains to be found.

The discovery of the eleventh specimen was reported in 2011 and then presented in 2014. It is among the most complete specimens but it’s missing most of the skull as well as a forelimb. It is owned by a private company and has not yet been named. Palaeontologists from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich examined the specimen and identified previously undiscovered characteristics of the plumage including feathers on the lower and upper legs , as well as the metatarsus. It also revealed the only tail tip that is preserved.

A 12th specimen was found by an enthusiast in the year 2010 in the Schamhaupten quarry, however the discovery was not announced until on February 14, 2014. The scientific description was published in the year 2018. It is a complete, mostly articulated skull skeleton. This is the sole one that isn’t preserved with feathers. It’s part of the Painten Formation and is slightly younger than all the others.

The majority of the pieces of Archaeopteryx discovered are out of the Solnhofen limestone of Bavaria in southern Germany It is also known as Lagerstatte is a rare and unique geological formation that is known for its exquisitely detailed fossils laid down in the early Tithonian phase during the Jurassic period, roughly 150.8-148.5 million years ago.

Archaeopteryx was approximately similar to a raven’s size with wings that were round at the ends , and an extended tail in comparison to the length of its body. It could be as long as 500 millimetres (20 in) in length. with a mass estimated at 0.8 up to 1 kilogram (1.8 to 2.2 pounds). 4. Archaeopteryx feathers, though less well-documented than other features, were like the structure of contemporary bird feathers. Despite having many characteristics of birds, Archaeopteryx had many non-avian dinosaur features. Different from contemporary birds Archaeopteryx featured small jaws as well as a bony tail that was long and features that Archaeopteryx was able to share with other dinosaurs from the same time.

Since it has features that are similar to birds and theropods which aren’t avian species, Archaeopteryx has often been thought to be a link between the two. The 1970s saw John Ostrom, following Thomas Henry Huxley’s example in 1868, suggested that birds evolved inside theropod dinosaurs. Archaeopteryx was an essential element of evidence supporting this claim. It had many avian characteristics including the wishbone, flight feathers wings, wings, and partially reversed first toe , along with theropod and dinosaur features. It also has an extended ascending process of the ankle boneand interdental plate an obturator of the ischium and long chevrons on the tail. Particularly, Ostrom found that Archaeopteryx was extremely similar to the families of theropods Dromaeosauridae. Archaeopteryx was the only bird with three distinct fore-leg digits, which each end with the word “claw”. Rare birds sport such traits. Some birds like ducks, swans, Jacanas (Jacana Sp.) as well as hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) conceal them beneath the feathers.

Source: Wikipedia