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Archaeopteryx brain paper in new Nature



From: Ben Creisler bh480@scn.org

In case this item has not been mentioned yet, the new 
Nature issue has a paper about the flight ability of 
Archaeopteryx bases on study of its brain:

Nature 430: 666 - 669 (05 August 2004)
The avian nature of the brain and inner ear of 
Archaeopteryx
PATRICIO DOMÍNGUEZ ALONSO, ANGELA C. MILNER, RICHARD A. 
KETCHAM3, M. JOHN COOKSON5 & TIMOTHY B. ROWE4

Archaeopteryx, the earliest known flying bird (avialan) 
from the Late Jurassic period, exhibits many shared 
primitive characters with more basal coelurosaurian 
dinosaurs (the clade including all theropods more bird-
like than Allosaurus), such as teeth, a long bony tail and 
pinnate feathers. However, Archaeopteryx possessed 
asymmetrical flight feathers on its wings and tail, 
together with a wing feather arrangement shared with 
modern birds. This suggests some degree of powered flight 
capability but, until now, little was understood about the 
extent to which its brain and special senses were adapted 
for flight. We investigated this problem by computed 
tomography scanning and three-dimensional reconstruction 
of the braincase of the London specimen of Archaeopteryx. 
Here we show the reconstruction of the braincase from 
which we derived endocasts of the brain and inner ear. 
These suggest that Archaeopteryx closely resembled modern 
birds in the dominance of the sense of vision and in the 
possession of expanded auditory and spatial sensory 
perception in the ear. We conclude that Archaeopteryx had 
acquired the derived neurological and structural 
adaptations necessary for flight. An enlarged forebrain 
suggests that it had also developed enhanced somatosensory 
integration with these special senses demanded by a 
lifestyle involving flying ability.

Palaeontology: Inside the oldest bird brain pg. 619
LAWRENCE M. WITMER
Did Archaeopteryx, the most primitive known bird, 
have 'the right stuff'? Looking into its skull with 
advanced technology provides insight into the dinosaurian 
transition to birds, and the evolution of flight.

For more links to articles on the paper:

http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/ads/wwwnscom/nssubs
/200400_popup/us_entry_79save_news.html


http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?
type=scienceNews&storyID=5873732

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/08/0804_040804
_archaeopteryx.html