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NEW BOOK: Archaeopteryx ? Der Urvogel von Solnhofen,
Peter Wellnhofer?s "Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs" is well known probably to many
list-members as combining popular attractiveness as well as profound scientific
content in a coherent way easy to read and lavishly illustrated. Now he is out
with a companion book devoted solely to Archaeopteryx, the famous urvogel from
Solnhofen and certainly the most outstanding fossil ever.
Archaeopteryx ? Der Urvogel von Solnhofen by Peter Wellnhofer
256 pp., 453 colored and 57 black-and-white figures, 24 tables. 32.5 x 24.3 cm.
Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil (www.pfeil-verlag.de)
So far, I have had just a few glimpses into ?Archaeopteryx? but already I like
to say this:
The book is stuffed with unique illustrations; well, a few are copied from old
historical and dispersed sources, but most figures were never seen before or
printed at that resolution, including full page photographs of all specimens,
photos of earlier preparation stages or interesting details or those amazing
UV-photos by Helmut Tischlinger. Also, there are plenty of all-new line
drawings and superb artwork by the author himself, all extensively labeled.
Though possibly some of the list-members will fear that German as the language
of the book would be an obstacle for them, I dare say that the book is worth
every Cent already for those illustrations alone and the German of Peter
Wellnhofer is easy to comprehend.
Just an overview of contents: After a short introduction, ?Archaeopteryx?
starts in chapters 2-4 with a discourse on the Solnhofen locality, its renowned
limestones and fossils, and the palecological, environmental and taphonomic
aspects of the fossillagerstätte. Then, in separate sub-chapters and in more
than 100 pages, the single feather and each of the ten skeletal finds are
described in all their paleontological and historical details. For three of
these precious fossils, Peter Wellnhofer once had done the original
descriptions himself, and so we can take profit from his first-hand-knowledge
and much of his life-time experience as well. There is no other source, where
all these details of the morphology and the discovery and fate of the specimens
can be found summarized or singularly to such extent. The next part deals with
the paleobiology of Archaeopteryx and the several attempts to reconstruct the
animal. The final chapters take up the outstanding importance of Archaeopteryx
as a ?missing link?, a scientific document of evolution, and the early
evolution of birds in general. All the text is augmented by worthwhile
footnotes with further details on people and specimens and quotes from
additional references. The final section of the book encompasses 12pp of
references and 4pp index.
This book will certainly attract not only the enthusiastic ?dinosaurologists?
but probably a wide audience: evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, natural
history historians, as well as students and laymen. No other ?missing link? has
been studied in such detail, no other fossil has had and still has such an
impact on our thinking and the development of science, and for those, who have
to teach or simply are interested into evolution, this book is a benchmark and
treasure chest full of facts.
And now, happy me goes on reading ?
Dr. Markus Moser
c/o Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie