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RE: 11th specimen of Archaeopteryx
Archie remains the cornerstone taxon to avian evolution on both an historical
level (as the key piece in the classic debates over avian origins and
phylogeny) and actual experiential level (the public has, because of the
historical aspect, more familiarity with these specimens and the acclaim they
brought to paleontology itself). Thus it remains a particularly valuable
element of education and discussion. It is also one of very few taxa whose
every specimen is known so well, in detail, and by particular monicker to
people who are not even specialists, a feat only approached by *Tyrannosaurus
rex*. The taxon has gained the classic monicker of "Archie," and it remains
used to this day. I do not think its impact is waning despite its decreasing
evolutionary significance, but that with the discussion around the Thermopolis
and now this new specimen, the acclaim will only increase. Moreover, the
material remains a viable piece of data in reconstructing variability of
"avian" evolution due to the integument and osteology in a lagerstätt, and one
from Germany where in the past two years any discussion of avian origins has
focused in Liaoning Province.
It should be important and telling that, despite it's seeming lack of being a
true "urvogel," Archie remains interesting due to the apparently unique
acquisition of features that nonetheless appear in other birds, part of the
basal mosaic of avian evolution, the root of Avialae, and this continues to
make Archie functionally important in an evolutionary as well as biomechanical
Although, it is just a dumb theropod to some ;).
Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)
"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion
> Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2011 17:19:12 +1100
> From: email@example.com
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: 11th specimen of Archaeopteryx
> Heinz Peter Bredow <email@example.com> wrote:
> > It contains a report about an 11th specimen of Archaeopteryx,
> > with very well preserved bones and feathers but no skull.
> > This specimen will be displayed with some other specimens of Archaeopteryx
> > at the end of this month at the Münchner Mineralientage.
> The importance of _Archaeopteryx_ to the evolution of flight has been
> receding over the past decade - long before the phylogeny of Xu et al.
> (2011) relegated it to the deinonychosaurian branch (which may change
> at some point in the future).
> Archie may actually have little relevance to the origin of the modern
> avian flight apparatus. The flight abilities of Archie were not only
> exceedingly weak, but with its long tail adorned with a "rectricial
> frond" it probably represents a novel form of flight, very different
> to that of modern birds. It is possible that archaeopterygids,
> microraptorines and jeholornithids each represent separate experiments
> in aerial flight behavior, none of which was ancestral to the modern
> avian mode of flight. Short-tailed proto-birds like _Sapeornis_ might
> be far more relevant to how modern birds came to fly - and there are
> literally dozens of _Sapeornis_ specimens.
> Of course, none of this detracts from the discovery of another Archie
> specimen. Looking forward to the paper.