Archaeopteryx lithographica

The first bird-like fossils have been given the genus name Archaeopteryx. The species name above comes from the "lithographic limestone" in which the fossil was found. There are different ideas about what these fossils represent. Some scientists believe them to be reptiles and others believe them to be birds. The fossils appear to have imprints of feathers, birds! But they also appear to have teeth, reptiles! These animals seem to be a "transitional" form between reptiles and birds. While the idea that dinosaurs might have "evolved" into birds is thought to be a new idea, T.H. Huxley was the first to propose that dinosuars and birds were closely related.

Almost every general biology student has seen a picture of one of these fossils. Many don't realize that this is not the only Archaeopteryx fossil to be found. In fact, quite a few fossils of this type have been found world-wide.

This is the "classic" picture of the archaeopteryx fossil. It was not the first found, but is the most complete. The fossil was found in a limestone quarry in southern Germany (Bavaria) in 1877. This fossil was bought by the London Museum and is known as the "London Archaeopteryx".

This is actually the first archaeopteryx fossil found. It was found in the same quarry as the one above in 1861. It is not as complete as the "London Archaeopteryx". This fossil is owned by a musem in Berlin and is known as the "Berlin Archaeopteryx".

A total of seven "archaeopteryx" fossils have been found. The last to be found in 1992 has been described as a new species, Archaeopteryx bavarica.

The Bavarian State Collection of Paleontology and Historical Geology in Munich has a good website about these fossils.

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