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More evidence that dinobird icon Archaeopteryx could fly?

famous Archaeopteryx fossil/Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

From “Winged Dinosaur Archaeopteryx Dressed for Flight” (ScienceDaily, Jan. 24, 2012), we learn,

Since its discovery 150 years ago, scientists have puzzled over whether the winged dinosaur Archaeopteryx represents the missing link in birds’ evolution to powered flight. Much of the debate has focused on the iconic creature’s wings and the mystery of whether — and how well — it could fly.

A team of researchers has hopes their recent findings will shed light on the question:

Through a novel analytic approach, the researchers have determined that a well-preserved feather on the raven-sized dinosaur’s wing was black. The color and parts of cells that would have supplied pigment are evidence the wing feathers were rigid and durable, traits that would have helped Archaeopteryx to fly.

The team also learned from its examination that Archaeopteryx’s feather structure is identical to that of living birds, a discovery that shows modern wing feathers had evolved as early as 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period.

They don’t directly answer the question:

“We can’t say it’s proof that Archaeopteryx was a flier. But what we can say is that in modern bird feathers, these melanosomes provide additional strength and resistance to abrasion from flight, which is why wing feathers and their tips are the most likely areas to be pigmented,” Carney said.

But with enough evidence, we may be able to.

Note: None of this argues for archaeopteryx as, in the popular legend, the “first bird.” ‘Pt’yx was apparently a dinosaur, but there was no law that said dinos couldn’t fly.

See also: Dinosaur nesting site pushes back knowledge by 100 million years

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18 Responses to More evidence that dinobird icon Archaeopteryx could fly?

  1. The team also learned from its examination that Archaeopteryx’s feather structure is identical to that of living birds.

    So the packaging keeps changing, but what’s inside the box never seems to change, and first appeared as perfectly formed. So where is the origin of the eye, the ear, the feather, preserved?

  2. It seems that Archeopteryx places Darwinists in an unusually difficult position. Namely, if Archeopteryx could fly, then we have the “evolution” of flight without any known intermediates; and, if the Archeopteryx cannot fly, then why did it have “flight feathers”. A rather puzzling, and uncomfortable, cunundrum, I would think……………………….[However, I think some kind of "just-so" story is in the offing.......I can just feel it.]

  3. There are no fossil remains of passenger pigeons; therefor they never existed.

  4. Uh, the debate has always been whether Archie was capable of powered flight or just a glider. That it had flight feathers has been known since the beginning.

    None of this argues for archaeopteryx as, in the popular legend, the “first bird.”

    Not “first”, but “earliest known bird”. Anyway, that’s mostly a nomenclatural problem, not a biological one.

  5. Archie had a long vertebrated “frond tail”, laterally-oriented glenoid fossae, and a gracile sternum (possibly without any keel). Modern flying birds have short “fan tails” with a pygostyle, dorsally-oriented glenoid fossae, and a large keeled sterna. Those are not superfluous flight adaptations, so Archaeopteryx clearly didn’t have it all worked out.

    As for transitionals, the phylogeny is still messy, but there are plenty of animals with putatively transitional morphologies (e.g. Protarchaeopteryx). Wiki is your friend. Just double-check the Latin names, OK? ;-)

  6. There are no fossil remains of unicorns; therefore they never existed.

  7. At Wikipedia, they tell us that Archeopteryx lived 150 million years ago, and that Protarcheopteryx lived 124 mya. It’s a bit bewildering that it’s called Protarcheopteryx.

  8. Once upon a time there lived the universal common ancestor in a pond. Nobody knows exactly what it was or when it decided to spontaneously self-organise out of mud, but it was probably when the Earth had the shape of a suitcase, anyway definitely not earlier than that. It had very good friends, cosmic radiation and volcanic eruptions. But its best friends ever were Time and Chance. It was Time and Chance who helped it turn into many different forms, which was done so cleverly that some people think that they were designed by intelligence. But those stupid people do not understand how witty, yet completely without intelligence, Time and Chance really were. Just think how life emerges from chaos. It makes you an intellectually fulfilled believer in the power of chaos. The intellectually fulfiled must believe that life only appears to be designed. Anyway, Time went on and great-grand children of the universal common ancestor, evolved, and evolved, and evolved…

  9. Denyse’s posts always make such good food for thought…

  10. Why are there still monkeys, indeed.

  11. “Why are there still monkeys, indeed.”

    I think PaV is just asking why Protarcheopteryx… which I’m pretty sure means ‘before archeopteryx’, still has its name when it’s clear it came after.

    Not how could one come from another. -_-

  12. I’m not aware that anyone thinks that fossils represent any examples of direct descent. One might look at house cats and lions and recognize they are closely related (maybe even the same Kind!) but one is not descended from the other.

  13. @Petrushka: Meh, fair enough.

    Still, at present, evidence states that it came after, so why is it still Proto?

    I’m pretty sure that’s all PaV’s problem. (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong dude).

    I mean they changed Brontosaurus back to Apatosaurus when they learned the creatures had been mixed up (not quite the same situation but roll with me for a minute)? It’s not so hard to change the name to Postarcheopteryx or something is it?

  14. Next thing, you’ll be demoting planets.

  15. Why? Is there a planet named Pre-Jupiter around?

    -_-

    Apples and oranges dude. Most dinosaurs/prehistoric creatures are named via latin descriptions (Tyrannosaus Rex = Tyrant Lizard King) or for somebody who discovered it/was important/ect.

    Protarcheopteryx (meaning “Before Archaeopteryx” according to wiki) is a false description, in no sense of the word does the creature come before archeopteryx. Hence PaV’s bewilderment at the name.

    Which is all I was saying to Geoxus.

    Thank you for clarifying that Geo wasn’t saying the ‘fossils represent any examples of direct descent’. Doesn’t change PaV or my confusion why the thing is still named such.

  16. Sorry, that was at you Petrushka… can’t figure this blog out sometimes…

  17. I’m pretty sure that’s all PaV’s problem. (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong dude).

    I hope you’re right. From what I remember he does have trouble the concept of “transitional”.

    Still, at present, evidence states that it came after, so why is it still Proto?

    The name comes from its inferred phylogenetic position, basal to Archie. It has nothing to do with stratigraphic position.

    I mean they changed Brontosaurus back to Apatosaurus when they learned the creatures had been mixed up (not quite the same situation but roll with me for a minute)? It’s not so hard to change the name to Postarcheopteryx or something is it?

    The Code of Zoological Nomenclature doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t matter whether a name seems nonsensical (e.g. Basiloaurus). The first validly published name stays with the species.

    Sorry, that was at you Petrushka… can’t figure this blog out sometimes…

    The limited indentation system can be a bit confusing.

  18. Gee… how did I get so many typos in there?

    …he does have trouble [with] the concept…

    The [International] Code of Zoological Nomenclature doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t matter whether a name seems nonsensical (e.g. Basilo[s]aurus). The first validly published name stays with the species.

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