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I've heard a lot of different theories about how archaeopteryx might have
developed the power of flight. The first was that it was an arboreal glider
that caught insects while gliding from tree to tree (maybe under full-powered
flight). But doesn't the paleogeology indicate that it did not live in a
forested area. And while that doesn't entirely eliminate the gliding theory,
I can't imagine the first avian ancestor falling out of a tree, flapping its
arms wildly, and plummeting a'la Wile E. Coyote.
So perhaps archaeopteryx may have developed flight from the ground up,
running along and leaping into the air, gliding, and catching more and more
This idea doesn't make sense to me. A small light archosaur with a mouth full
of tiny sharp teeth seems much better adapted to grabbing snakes and lizards
than jumping for dragonflies!
Why wouldn't archaeopteryx (and its close ancestors) have a lifestyle similar
to that of other small theropods? And if it did share that lifestyle, what
advantage is there in flight?
What was the motivating force behind the evolution of avian characteristics?
Any thoughts on my ramblings will be greatly appreciated.
Assistant Education Curator
Natural Science Center of Greensboro