Jun. 10th, 2014

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Archaeopteryx lithographica has, until recently, enjoyed its place in the spotlight as the link between dinosaurs and birds. When it was discovered in 1861, it was regarded as a bird, but one with unusually dinosaur-like characteristics, including a long bony tail, clawed hands on the wings, and a toothed snout. As more specimens have been recovered, however, and with more and more feathered theropods being found every year, it has become evident that Archaeopteryx may not be the all-important transitional stage we once thought it to be. While some paleontologists maintain that it belongs in Avialae, others have suggested it may in fact be a troodontid or other maniraptoran, and therefore still a close relative of birds, but no more so than a species like Velociraptor, rather than a likely ancestor of modern birds. Whatever the case may be, it was certainly an important discovery in its time, and remains a well-known public ambassador for the evolutionary history of birds.

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Lauren Helton

September 2014

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