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Archaeopteryx not a powered flyer?!



A new wrench thrown into the (long-thought settled) question, Did
Archaeopteryx use powered flight?

Speakman, J.R., and Thomson, S.C.  1994.  Flight capabilities of
Archaeopteryx.  Nature 370:514.

These authors have challenged the idea that Archaeopteryx was a powered
flyer, by using the same data that has for 15 years been the best evidence
of that exact form of locomotion: the asymmetry of the feathers of the
Urvogel (primeval bird).  While Olson and Feduccia (1979) showed that
Archaeopteryx does indeed have asymmetrical feathers, as do modern flyers,
Speakman and Thomson have shown that the feathers of Archie are by no means
as asymmetrical as modern flapping or gliding birds.

While modern flappers have an feathers with asymmetries of 2.25 - 11.75,
and gliders 2.75 - 6.75, Archaeopteryx has only 1.25.  This is wholly
within the flightless bird range (0.75 - 3.75).

Ugh!!!  It's the little details like this that are the most annoying...

Oh, well.  Back to the drawing board...

                                     
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile
U.S. Geological Survey
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA  22092

email:  tholtz@geochange.er.usgs.gov 
Phone:  703-648-5280
FAX:            703-648-5420