Dinosaur finally gets its wings: Study proves Archaeopteryx could fly



For more than 150 years, researchers have been studying the fossils of bird-like dinosaur Archaeopteryx and attempting to answer this question: Did it fly? The bones are preserved in limestone slabs, and attempting to remove them for greater analysis would damage them. "Although the anatomy of Archaeopteryx was incapable of executing the flight stroke of modern birds, this similarity accounts for the strongest evidence for active flight in this animal presented in 150 years of research". It lacked important traits in the shoulders of modern birds, making it impossible to beat its wings the way they do. One camp said, yes, Archaeopteryx flapped its way off the ground.

But the X-rays revealed new finds within the arm bones of Archaeopteryx.

"Many researchers have assumed that Archaeopteryx exhibited a very primitive way of flying that would have been equivalent to that of gliding from tree to tree, like extant flying squirrels do", said palaeontologist Sophie Sanchez of Uppsala University in Sweden.

Scientists discovered that it would have only used its power of flight for short bursts and distances, most likely to escape unsafe situations.

Bones, Voeten pointed out, record our daily stress. The muscle groups that move bird wings up and down are attached at the sternum, like the wheel of a pulley.

Voeten expects that the new study will attract Archaeopteryx flight critics and says, "I warmly welcome them".

There's a reason why this type of flight is not observable in birds today: It went extinct because it wasn't effective. Just as modern birds fly through the air, the Archaeopteryx flew as well - but in the hundreds of millions of years since Archaeopteryx walked the earth, modern birds took a marked departure from how this ancient dinosaur flew.

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. "We feel our study supports that the evolution of dinosaurian flight was not simply a straight line towards the flight of modern birds but involved an exotic diversity of alternative, experimental and intermediate solutions that ultimately proved to be evolutionary dead-ends".

During the Jurassic period over the German archipelago, the only company Archaeopteryx would've had in the skies were primitive pterosaurs. He is not beholden to the idea Archaeopteryx could fly, he said.

"With 11 specimens of Archaeopteryx presently known, which makes Archaeopteryx a comparatively well-sampled dinosaur, it is quite remarkable that this taxon remains somewhat mysterious to this very day".