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Archaeopteryx and Flight



Bill Barbour writes (in part) "I've heard a lot of different theories about 
how archaeopteryx might have developed the power of flight."

There are some things to consider in an animal evolving a novel (for 
Therapods at least) mode of locomotion. There are at least two reasons that 
I can see for flight, the first is to grab the abundant flying insects of 
the period (dragonflies were huge and Archaeopteryx was a small dinosaur), 
the second is to avoid being eating by the other larger Theropods. There is 
an equal advantage, from an evolutionary sense, between being better at 
getting food and to being better at not being eaten. So, even if they were 
not living in heavily forested areas, there is a definate advantage in being 
able to leap into the air, gliding and quite possibly making a sudden change 
in direction to avoid another hungry Theropod. Also, Archaeopteryx was not a 
large dinosaur, so it would not take much of a tree to support it's weight, 
perhaps the areas where it was found were covered in brush and grasses. It 
is still a viable hypothesis that it glided out of/in to small trees/bushes 
to catch insects and that it jumped into the air and glided away from hungry 
Theropods.

Just like the T. rex dining questions, people are pigeon-holing the 
ecological niches of animals that we have little hard data on. In those 
cases it is better to be very broad in our scope rather than being 
reductionist in scope when hypothesizing life habits of dinosaurs.

Miles Constable
Toxic Chemicals Biologist by necessity,
By-stander and Observer of Paleontology by interest
Constablem@edm.ab.doe.ca


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