Bird 1.0 – Secret about Archaeopteryx revealed

To which creature does the fossilized primordial feather, discovered more than 150 million years ago in a quarry in the Franconian Alb, belong? A group of researchers has now found the answer.

In 1860 researchers made a spectacular find in the Altmühltal valley in Bavaria. They found the imprint of a primeval feather in a quarry in the community of Solnhofen. The fossil originated from the Jurassic age and was thus around 150 million years old. At that time, the area around the site was still a subtropical island and lagoon landscape populated by early crocodile species, sharks and dinosaurs. It was soon suspected that the feather belonged to an Archaeopteryx, as several fossilized skeletons of this legendary animal were also found nearby. However, this has not been proven yet – this has now come to an end! The US American Ryan Carney from the University of Southern Florida, together with a group of scientists – including the German paleontologist Helmut Tischlinger – found out that the feather really does belong to an Archaeopteryx. This could be proved with the help of a special and ultra-modern electron microscope, with which the fossilized feather and skeletal fossils could be compared in detail. In the study published in the magazine “Scientific Reports” it can also be read that the feather was most probably from the upper plumage of the left wing. Even the original colour of the fossil could be determined, with ninety percent probability the Archaeopteryx feather was black.

Germany’s Jurassic Park

The Altmühltal is known as a fossil region far beyond the German borders. Scientists from all over the world visit the area in the hope of making sensational discoveries. The locals are particularly proud of the fossil of a young Xaveropterus, a predatory dinosaur, which can be admired in the Solnhofen Museum. But the star among the fossils of the Altmühltal is and remains the Archaeopteryx, which has not yet been found anywhere else in the world outside the region. But what do people actually know about this primeval bird? Archaeopteryx is classified as a transitional form between reptiles and birds and is considered to be proof that the evolutionary history of birds began as early as the Jurassic age and that they therefore descended directly from the dinosaurs. Whether Archaeopteryx has to be counted among the dinosaurs or among the birds is still a matter of disagreement among scholars. However, science assumes that the animal had teeth and that its legs were feathered differently from those of modern birds. Archaeopteryx was about the size of a pigeon, and its wings had claws at the ends so that it could climb up tree trunks, for example. Its flying abilities were rather limited, and so it usually covered only a few metres in flight.

The bird of the year

If Archaeopteryx had been voted Bird of the Year, it would certainly have landed in one of the top places, because to this day only one other primeval bird of the Jurassic age is known besides it, the Alcmonavis poeschli. For understandable reasons, neither of them is on the list of candidates in the 2021 Bird of the Year competition organised by the NABU and LBV associations. For the first time, the winner will not be chosen by a jury of experts, but by bird lovers from Germany. Who gets your vote? You can vote directly via the link (

Author: Tim



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