This feathery dinosaur probably flew, but not like any bird you know

Archaeopteryx

PAThe Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx could reach up to 0.5 m and, despite its small size, Archaeopteryx had more things in common with a Theropod dinosaur than with modern birds.

In a recent research, Voeten and his colleagues from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France, examined the Archaeopteryx fossils by applying a synchrotron which is a strong radiations source. He made a decision to look for similar evidence in Archaeopteryx.

As mentioned above, modern birds are descendants of similar dinosaurs, but Voeten says that the Archaeopteryx was probably not a direct ancestor of birds like the sparrow or ostrich, instead representing an offshoot lineage - a statement backed up by the fact that the Archaeopteryx took flight in quite a weird manner.

As scientists have probed Archaeopteryxs family tree, they also questioned its ability to fly.

Of course, flight motion itself does not fossilize, and the flight pattern of Archaeopteryx can not be studied in a living animal anymore, which makes determining flight style even more hard, lead study author Dennis Voeten wrote in an email. Archaeopteryx wings were attached like our arms, with no chest pulley.

"It was surprising to see that the wing bone geometry of Archaeopteryx looks remarkably more like those of modern birds than expected". Likewise, the stress of flying reshapes the wing bones in modern birds. "Were sure that its incapable of flying like a modern bird does", he said.

Statistical comparison placed the bones of Archaeopteryx very close to those of mostly ground-dwelling birds such as pheasants and roadrunners, Voeten said.

Still, it did not fly like a pheasant.

During the next 150-plus years, paleontologists discovered 10 more Archaeopteryx skeletons. So they could have flown from island to island.

Bones, Voeten pointed out, record our daily stress.

So what would active flight look like, if it's not the up and down flapping of modern birds? Archaeopteryx was probably not, Voeten said, a direct tie to sparrows and ostriches but a member of an offshoot lineage.

The study does not attempt to definitively describe the flight style, but Voeten and his team believe that because of the shoulder girdle, it's possible that Archaeopteryx had a flight stroke that oriented forward and up, followed by a power stroke oriented rearward and down - nearly like the butterfly stroke.

150 million years ago, a hybrid creature, a dinosaur on the way to becoming a bird, died on today's territory of Germany. But this study shows that by the late Jurassic, dinosaurian flight had already evolved.

Since the discovery of the first Archaeopteryx skeleton back in the 19th century, there has been much debate as to how exactly this dinosaur took flight. The Archaeopteryx bone characteristics closely resembled what Voeten called "burst fliers". "The modern bird has a very nifty pulley system", Voeten said. "From a historical perspective, it is clear that Archaeopteryx represents a true icon of evolution: It played an important role in both the early communication of Darwin's theory of biological evolution and, later, in the recognition that birds are, in fact, dinosaurs".

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