The wing Archeopteryx is one of the most famous dinosaurs known for science, but arguments remain about its place in…
The wing Archeopteryx is one of the most famous dinosaurs known for science, but arguments remain about its place in the evolutionary family tree. The reported discovery of a whole new species of Archeopteryx with clear bird-like characteristics indicates that its relation to modern birds is more meaningful than we realized. Critics, on the other hand, say it’s too early to denote the fossil sample belonging to a new species.
It is called Archeopteryx albersdoerferi – a jurassic dinosaur that is less reptile-like and more birdy than any other known Archeopteryx species, according to new research published today in Historical Biology. If confirmed, it would only be the third species of Archeopteryx identified among the 1
2 known fossil skeletons (or 10 depending on who you ask).
This particular fossil was discovered in 2009 as number eight), but a new scanning technique was used for analysis, so it is a classic fall of an old fossil vision through new eyes. That the authors of the new study should explain the test a distinctive nature should not come as a surprise.
Almost every new fossil of Archeopteryx has first been declared a new species before it is eventually torn back to one of the two known species, either Archeopteryx lithographica or Archaeopteryx siemensii after further review. The same can happen with Archeopteryx albersdoerferi but only time will tell.
Archeopteryx is one of the most exciting dinosaurs in the palaeontological record. Discovered in the 1860s, this Jurassic dinosaur was celebrated as a tangible demonstration of evolution in action. Not quite lizard and not real bird, it seemed to show, almost literally, lizards that develop into birds. Archeopteryx was thus labeled as a “transitional” species – a so-called link between extinct dinosaurs and modern birds.
Over the years, however, paleontologists have fought to place Archeopteryx in the family tree that leads to modern birds. The discovery of other bird-like creatures from the dinosaurs, with sizes and characteristics consistent with the appearance of modern birds, led some scientists to conclude that Archeopteryx was an evolutionary death end and the modern birds have another common ancestor.
Archeopteryx was called a “convergent bird-like non-avian theropod”, which means a non-avian spring dynamo that acquired bird-like properties through the processes of converging evolution.
That’s what makes this new analysis so potentially important. The main author of the new study Martin Kundrát from Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Slovakia said that the test is more like modern birds than any other Archeopteryx sample found so far. The new paper thus retrieves Archeopteryx one step or two closer to the family tree leading to modern birds.
This Archeopteryx fossil was drawn from Germany’s Mörnsheim formation, and it is the youngest of all known Archeopteryx copies of approximately 500,000 years, according to the study. All Arkeopteryx fossils return to Late Jurassic about 150 million years ago, a time when the first bird-like dinosaurs emerged.
It is closely resembling an older species called A. lithographica argues the researchers, but the age of the new fossil, in combination with its unique physical characteristics, excludes it as a special species of Archeopteryx .
To study the test, Kundrát team could use a scanning technique called synchrotron microtomography, enabling researchers to visualize copies in three dimensions and to observe decorative features without having to cut them.
“By digitally dissecting the fossil we found that this sample was different from all others,” John Nudds, co-author of the study and a paleontologist at Manchester University, said in a statement. “It had skeletal adaptations that would have resulted in much more efficient flights. In a nutshell we have discovered which A. Lithographica evolved into – a more advanced bird better suited to flight – and we have described this as a new one art of Archeopteryx . “
The researchers documented several distinct skeletal features, such as fusion of its cranial bone, unique wing elements and pectoral girdle (chest) and a harder handbelt arrangement. Importantly, none of these properties are found in the older Archeopteryx samples, which tend to be more reptile in their properties, noted the researchers.
“This is the first time that many legs and teeth of Archeopteryx were seen from all aspects, including exposure to their internal structure,” says Kundrát. “The use of synchrotron microtomography was the only way to study the sample as it is highly compressed with many fractured bones partially or completely hidden in limestone.”
Because of its clear bird-like characteristics, Archeopteryx is one of the most exciting dinosaurs known for science. Since its discovery 150 years ago, paleontologists have been wondering that the dinosaur of the late Jurassic could actually fly.
Troublingly, researchers argue their new studies “the first synchrotomyotomographic survey of the [Archaeopteryx] genus,” which is categorically unlikely. Earlier this year, a research group from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France and Palacký University in the Czech Republic used a sync to study the flight potential Archeopteryx . The fact that Kundrát and Nudds failed to account for this closely related research, published in Nature Communications, is a sharp omission.
Dennis Voeten, author of the Nature Communications paper, said that the new study provides “a welcome contribution to our understanding of the variability of Archeopteryx in the genus”, but he is not convinced of the fossil represents a new species.
“Almost all specimens have been included in their own species at some point, and later the revisions were still unable to separate these animals in a limited number of well-defined” natural “species,” Voeten Gizmodo told.
of the growth and physical The variability of Archeopteryx “is still challenging to reconstruct,” he said, and several important features, such as bone size and subtle physical properties, can be the result of individual variation or even deformations of the bone after the animal died, rather
“This new paper, however, provides a powerful second example of the value of synchrotrontomography, which reliably visualizes the internal structures of invaluable and fragile fossils,” he said. “Future evaluations of the beautiful The fossils from Archeopteryx will undoubtedly reveal which morphological characters which is associated with its true specific diversity, and which depends on other factors that play. “
As a last page, the top image is used in this post – an artist’s reconstruction of A. albersdoerferi – takes some serious freedoms. Although Archeopteryx exhibits physical characteristics consistent with flight, it has not yet been shown that it was a free flyer. As I wrote earlier this year, scientists do not know if this animal used its wings for passive sliding or driving active flight.
Another possibility is that Archeopteryx was a terrestrial animal who did not fly at all with his wings for anything else, like joke swap, run or sexual screens.
All this said, the recent work of Voeten and Kundrát both points towards Archeopteryx is a flying creature, but its exact flight length is still a mystery.