|1st Species||Archaeopteryx lithographica|
|Time Range||150.8-148.5 mya|
|Name Meaning||Ancient wing|
|Physical Dimensions||55 centimeters long|
Archaeopteryx is an archaeopterygid theropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of Germany. It was named in 1861 by Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer. It was the first Mesozoic bird known to science, and was once thought to be the most primitive bird ever (right before Anchiornis was discovered); despite this, it continues to be an important discovery today.
Archaeopteryx was a bird with a sleek, streamlined body, a moderately long tail, long legs with a small, sickle-shaped claw on each foot, long arms with 3 long fingers on each hand, and a long, bird-like head with a beakless snout and a mouth filled with small teeth; as well as this, it had long flight feathers connected to its arms (making up its wings), and smaller feathers connecting to its legs. In general, its build was extremely similar to that of many small, bird-like dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Stenonychosaurus; this tells us that birds are in fact highly advanced dinosaurs. Most of its body (excluding its snout and toes) would have been covered in long, vaned feathers; the tips of its wings would have been black in color.
Archaeopteryx was a predator, preying on insects and lizards. Its teeth were small yet sharp, and were used to get a hold of struggling prey as the bird swallowed them whole.
As a primitive bird, Archaeopteryx had many characteristics suitable for flight, such as arms that were longer than its legs, long flight feathers, well-developed muscles on its arms, and an ear structure not unlike that of modern birds; however, it was not as strong a flier as modern birds, due to the fact that its sternum was made out of cartilage (rather than out of bone) and that its arms couldn't raise themselves above horizontal position. Despite this, the latter does not mean that it couldn't take to the air, as it is very possible that Archaeopteryx simply used its wings to glide from shrub to shrub; in fact, with the highest angle it could raise its wings up to, it might have been able to fly into the air with a few flaps before transitioning into gliding. As well as this, thanks to its long legs and elongated toes, Archaeopteryx was a fast runner that spent about half of its time on the ground; this lifestyle was somewhat fitting, as the arid lagoons which it resided in did not have many trees, only being sparsely vegetated by shrubs and cycads. A comparison of its sclerotic rings to those of modern reptiles and birds indicates that it was diurnal.
In popular cultureEdit
Archaeopteryx was first introduced to the public in 1861, 2 years after Charles Darwin's best-selling book, On the Origin of Species, was published; according to the press, it had pretty much confirmed Darwin's theories of evolution, which would cause it to become extremely popular. Since then, it has been featured in many murals, where it is depicted as being able to perfectly emulate the movements of a modern bird, such as flying around and perching on tree branches. In some of these murals, it can also be seen in the predatory grasp of an Ornitholestes; these scenarios are inaccurate, as both Ornitholestes and Archaeopteryx appeared in different places at different times.