Archaeopteryx the first bird

The pantheon of Late Jurassic theropods is also distinguished by the appearance of the oldest known bird. One fossil of Archaeopteryx ("ancient wing")—from the Late Jurassic-age limestone deposits of Solnhofen, Germany, and known as the Berlin specimen because it resides in a museum in Berlin, Germany—has been called the most valuable fossil ever found. Described in 1861 by German paleontologist Hermann von Meyer (1801-1869), Archaeopteryx is the earliest known bird and represents something of a transitional stage in the evolution of birds from other theropods. The fossil is a mosaic of dinosaur and bird features. Like later birds, Archaeopteryx had wings and feathers. Unlike modern birds, Archaeopteryx had teeth and a long tail, two of the many traits linking it to theropod dinosaurs.

Archaeopteryx, now known from 10 specimens, is considered the earliest known bird, but it is not considered a direct ancestor of modern birds. Exactly how close Archaeopteryx is to modern birds is being debated. The recent discovery of a consider able variety of small, feathered dinosaurs that date from the Early Cretaceous of China is providing paleontologists with an abundance of fossil evidence to piece together the evolutionary connections between the-ropods and birds. This part of the dinosaur story will be explored later in this series.

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