Archaeopteryx lithographica (Berlin specimen)

Archaeopteryx (pronounced /ˌɑrkiːˈɒptərɨks/ AR-kee-OP-ter-iks), sometimes referred to by its German name Urvogel ("original bird" or "first bird"), is the earliest and most primitive bird known. The name derives from the Ancient Greek ἀρχαῖος (archaios) meaning "ancient", and πτέρυξ (pteryx), meaning "feather" or "wing".

Archaeopteryx lived in the late Jurassic Period around 150–145 million years ago, in what is now southern Germany during a time when Europe was an archipelago of islands in a shallow warm tropical sea, much closer to the equator than it is now.

Similar in size and shape to a European Magpie, Archaeopteryx could grow to about 0.5 metres (1.6 ft) in length. Despite its small size, broad wings, and inferred ability to fly or glide, Archaeopteryx has more in common with small theropod dinosaurs than it does with modern birds. In particular, it shares the following features with the deinonychosaurs (dromaeosaurs and troodontids): jaws with sharp teeth, three fingers with claws, a long bony tail, hyperextensible second toes ("killing claw"), feathers (which also suggest homeothermy), and various skeletal features.

Many of the eleven known fossils include impressions of feathers—among the oldest (if not the oldest) direct evidence of feathers. Moreover, because these feathers are an advanced form (flight feathers), these fossils are evidence that feathers had been evolving for quite some time.

Archaeopteryx in "Birdwitching"Edit

An Archaeopteryx was the last bird that Lucy Parker magicked to Sunset Grove during a Yule Bird Count competition with Fred O'Neill. It took a lot out of her and caused her to faint for a few seconds when she finished her incantation but it was the first known bird and O'Neill couldn't top it until and unless palaeontologists discovered something from an earlier period.

Literary CommentEdit

Since the publication of "Birdwitching," paleontologists have indeed discovered a fossil of a species of feathered dinosaur, Aurornis xui, which matches many of the same qualifications of a primitive bird as Archaeopteryx. This fossil predates Archaeopteryx by about ten million years.

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