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RE: Archaeopteryx Trip 2001
R. Irmis wrote
>Recently, I got back from a short family trip to Europe. My goal on the
>trip was to visit every institution that had an Archaeopteryx specimen.
I can add a couple of European institutions to that list (although none have
original Archaeopteryx material);
Oxford University Museum; this museum not only has a high-quality cast of
the Berlin Specimen, but is particularly interesting because a life
reconstruction of the animal is on display. This model is completely covered
with brightly coloured feathers. The beak, hand claws and lower legs are
very detailed and closely resemble the homologuous elements of modern birds.
The animal is shown running and ready to start flying (supporting the
ground-up theory). I have seen many attempts to make life-like 3D
reconstructions of Archaeopteryx, but this is without doubt the most
succesful so far.
Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences (Brussels); their inventory
only includes a low-quality cast of the Berlin Specimen (made of resin;
colour of both the matrix and skeletal elements are too dark and don't
resemble the real Solnhofen specimens).
Your comments on the London NHM are 100% correct; the London Archaeopteryx
specimen does not receive the attention it deserves, also the dinosaur
ancestry of birds is not clearly presented (this should be part of the
educational mission of the museum). The non-avian dinosaur displays are
among the best in the world and include representatives of all major
dinosaur clades; the real fossil specimens (often nearly complete skeletons)
are from locations that include England (Hypsilophodon, Iguanodon, Baryonyx,
Dacentrurus, neosauropods ...), Canada (Edmontosaurus, Euoplocephalus,
Centrosaurus ...) and some interesting remains from the British expeditions
to Tendaguru (Dryosaurus lettowvorbecki, "Ceratosaurus" ingens). Cast
skeletons (or elements) include Camarasaurus, Triceratops, Diplodocus,
Allosaurus, Coelophysis, Dromaeosaurus albertensis, Tuojiangosaurus,
Gorgosaurus, Gallimimus, Deinocheirus, Parasaurolophus, Massospondylus ...
Since about a year, I'm the proud owner of a cast of the Archaeopteryx
Berlin Specimen. The cast is made of plaster (which means it's quite heavy),
but this has allowed to reproduce all the delicate details of the original
specimen; both the bones and matrix have the same light yellow-brownish
colour of real Solnhofen specimens. It has cost me a fortune, but hey, we
only live once ...
Gunter Van Acker