The eleventh Archaeopteryx

An another indicative key to separating winged creature like dinosaurs from their nearest relatives.

The eleventh Archaeopteryx
The geologically oldest, but most recently discovered specimen of Archaeopteryx. (Foto: O. Rauhut, LMU)

LMU scientists report the primary portrayal of the geographically most established fossil safely inferable from the sort Archaeopteryx, and give another indicative key to separating winged creature like dinosaurs from their nearest relatives.

Somewhere in the range of 150 million years prior in what is presently Northern Bavaria, Archaeopteryx – the most established feathered creature species yet found ­– possessed a subtropical domain described by reef islands and tidal ponds set in a shallow ocean that was a piece of the primordial Mediterranean.

Every one of the examples of Archaeopteryx so far recouped was found in the valley of the Altmühl River, in geographical settings that speak to this territory ­– the Jurassic Solnhofen Archipelago.

The most recent find was made there in 2010, and this new example has now been broken down by a group of scientists drove by LMU scientist Oliver Rauhut, an educator in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences who is likewise subsidiary with the Bavarian State Collections for Paleontology and Geology in Munich. Stratigraphic examination of the discover territory uncovers that the fossil is the most seasoned known illustrative of the sort Archaeopteryx.

The new example is the twelfth fossil to be credited to the sort. Nonetheless, in an examination distributed in the online journal BMC Evolutionary Biology a year ago, Rauhut’s gathering revealed that the first of these to become visible ­– the supposed Haarlem example found in 1861 – does not really have a place with the gathering.

This outcome in this way diminishes the quantity of Archaeopteryx fossils to 11, albeit a few questions remain concerning the task of two of these. This underlines the need for a conclusion to obviously distinguish Archaeopteryx.

Rauhut said, “Specimens of Archaeopteryx are now known from three distinct rock units, which together cover a period of approximately 1 million years. Notably, the oldest example exhibits features that were so far not known from the other specimens. “Among other things, they reveal that Archaeopteryx was very similar to advanced predatory dinosaurs in many respects.”

Besides, in the new investigation, he and his associates give an analysis that permits to dependably recognize Archaeopteryx from its nearest relatives, both non-avialan theropod dinosaurs and basal flying creatures. This key will be extremely important, the overall arrangement of the winged creature like savage dinosaurs has been depicted as of late, fundamentally from China, which has incredibly muddled the taxonomical order of the gathering.

Rauhut said, “The high degree of variation in the teeth is particularly striking – none of the specimens shows the same pattern of dentition as any other, which could reflect differences in diet. This is very reminiscent of the famous case of Darwin’s finks on the Galapagos, which show remarkable variation in their beak shapes. It is even conceivable that this primeval bird genus might, in a similar fashion, have diversified into several specialized forms on the islands of the Solnhofener Archipelago. In that case, the Archaeopteryx fossils could represent a species flock, a Jurassic analog of Darwin’s finches.”

The investigation of the 11th specimen demonstrates that the known specimens span a remarkable range of anatomical variation. Potential explanations for the broad spectrum of variation extend from intraspecific developmental polymorphism to evolutionary differentiation, i.e., the possibility that the fossil material so far recovered represents more than one species.

The study is published in journal Peerj.