Archaeopteryx lithographica by Josef Moravec. Oil painting 28" x 22" (71 cm x 56 cm).
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Archaeopteryx lithographica is believed to be the earliest known bird. It is actually considered to be the intermediate between the birds and predatory dinosaurs, a possible link between reptiles and birds. It is debated by paleontologists whether this ancient bird could actually flew or merely glided from tree to tree. It didn't have the keeled breastbone(characteristic of today's birds) to which fasten their flight muscles. It may well have ran, leaped, glided, and flapped, but in any event it seems, that it was not a strong flier. Mammals, lizards, insects and fish were all welcome nourishment for this hunter. Its size is comparable to an average pigeon though its legs and bony tail are long and slender. Unlike all living birds, it had a full set of teeth, a flat breastbone (sternum), a long bony tail, belly ribs (gastralia) and three claws on each wing (which could have been used to grasp prey or tree). But feathers, wings, a wishbone (furcula) and reduced fingers are all characteristics of modern birds. It had similarities to dinosaurs, including its teeth, skull, lack of horny bill and certain bone structures. The 'wrist' of the wings were terminated with long reptilian claws. Rather than a beak it had a scaled snout complete with pointed teeth. All these features point to its reptilian origins. All fossils of Archaeopteryx lithographica were found in JurassicSolnhofen Limestone of southern Germany; it is one of the most important fossils ever discovered.
TIME - Late Jurassic - 150 MYA
RANGE - Europe (German)
SIZE - 14 inches long (35 cm)
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