Archaeopteryx (Ar-kay-op-teh-rix), ancient wing, was the dinosaur bird that lived in the Late Jurassic of Europe and is one of the most important fossils ever found. The first Archaeopteryx skeleton with feathers was found in 1861, and since then 6 – 7 skeletons have been recovered. The similarity to Compsognathus and other small theropods led to early specimens being classed as theropods until the feather impressions were recognized. The significant similarities between it and birds have heavily weighted current opinion in favor of Archaeopteryx being a bird rather than a non-avian theropod. As well as the features of the pelvis and limbs, the seventh skeleton contained a well-preserved skull which showed a unique combination of features supporting both the theropod origin of birds, and that Archaeopteryx is the most primitive bird yet found.
Genera and Species
Species: A. lithographica. A. bavarica, A. vicensensis.
Senior synonyms: Pterodactylus crassipes, Scaphognathus crassipes, Rhamphorhynchus crassipes, Wellnhoferia
Archaeopteryx was a small crow-sized animal that had a full set of teeth and a long, bony tail. It had gastralia ("belly ribs") and three claws on the wing. The wing feathers of Archaeopteryx were asymmetrical and comparable to slow-flying modern birds. The second toe was hyperextensible like the killing claw of Velociraptor.
Length 1.5 - 2 ft. Weight 1.1 lb.
It was capable of powered flight but would have spent time in the trees and on the ground. It could climb and leap and may have swum. Diet included fish, insects and small game.
History of Discovery
The first complete Archaeopteryx skeleton with feathers was found in 1861, and since then at least 6 other skeletons have been recovered. It is known from skull and feather impressions.
Found in Europe, living on arid brush and Mangrove-covered islands in tropical lagoons. It shared the islands with pterosaurs and small theropods.
Paul, G. (2010). The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (pp. 3226). Princeton, New Jersey: University Press Princeton
Worth, G. (1999). The Dinosaur Encyclopaedia (pp. 379). Scarborough, Western Australia: HyperWorks Reference Software.