Archaeopteryx’s status is changing, but the animal is still key to the dinosaur–bird transition.
03 December 2014
Fossil remains of Archaeopteryx established it as the first bird — but that title is now under threat.
The iconic status of Archaeopteryx, the first animal discovered with both bird and dinosaur features, is under attack. More-recently discovered rival species show a similar mix of traits. But Archaeopteryx still hogged the opening symposium at the 2014 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Berlin last month, and even festooned the official conference beer glasses.
As the simplistic idea of a ‘first’ bird gives way to a messy evolutionary transition, newly discovered fossils and improved analysis techniques put Archaeopteryx in prime position to unravel the details. “Research onArchaeopteryx is really catching a new breath,” says palaeobiologist Martin Kundrat of Uppsala University in Sweden, who co-organized the symposium at the November meeting.