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Archie's diet: SPECULATION ALERT!!
>I would be very surprised if Archaeopteryx, which is not all that small as
>modern birds go, could not have handled lizards, frogs, salamanders (if any
>were around) or similar creatures. Of course we don't know whether or not
>it did so, but it seems reasonable to assume that it could use unserrated
>teeth to handle animals modern birds eat with not teeth at all.
You might add small mammals, sphenodontids (which were fairly common in the
Late Jurassic of Europe), and...
Pterosaurs are some of the most abundant and diverse tetrapods in the
Solnhofen. Some of the adults, and most (all?) of the juveniles were
smaller than Archie. Perhaps Archaeopteryx occassionally grabbed a
pterosaur on the ground, just as small felids occassionally grab a bird on
Granted, this would be very difficult to document, but it is (for me, at
least) a pleasing speculation. I find it more appealing than Archaeopteryx
chasing after dragonflies (often illustrated, but (as Greg Paul has pointed
out) much more difficult than it sounds!).
However, I do NOT think that chasing after pterosaurs was a major (or minor)
selective factor in the history of flight, nor do I suggest that cats are
likely to grow wings and fly. Nevertheless, Archaeopteryx has a scaled-down
version of the dromaeosaurid arsenal (just as small cats have scaled-down
versions of the lion-tiger-leopard equipment), and those big hands retain
the ancestral grasping structure, useful for grabbing small prey items as
well as trees!
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Dept. of Geology
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742