Archaeopteryx 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
All fossils of Archaeopteryx lithographica were found in Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone of southern Germany; it is one of the most important
fossils ever discovered.
- Late Jurassic - 150 MYA
- 14 inches long (35 cm)