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Re: Help with meaning "Urschwinge" for name Archaeopteryx

From: Ben Creisler

Many thanks for the improvements to my German translation. I decided
to include the full passage instead part of the sentence and so did a
rather quick-and-dirty English translation without mulling over all
the subtler points of German grammar.  (Another New Year’s
resolution—mull over subtle points, mull over subtle points, and mull
over subtle points again.)

Although German fort means “away,” I would point out that some German
verbs with fort such as fortschreiten mean to “stride forward, to
advance, to progress”--and fortbewegen means “to move ahead.” In other
verbs, “fort” means to continue doing something (fortführen and
fortsetzen). Since I can’t recall seeing birds on the ground hop in
any direction but forward, “hop forward” (or maybe “hop ahead”) seemed
more logical than “hop away” when the tracks only go in one direction
and a bird logically would fly away rather than hop away to escape
something. Maybe “hopped along” would be a better fit.  Rereading it
now, I should not have used the passive in the last sentence. I think
the fact that “tracks”  [Fährten] was the main subject and not
Archaeopteryx made me think the passive with “impression” seemed more
consistent. Anyway, thanks again for the improvements. So, here’s my
second translation (again, feel free to improve):

Das Thier scheint mit beiden Füssen gleichzeitig fortgehüpft zu seyn,
wie es Vögel oft zu thun pflegen, und es ist bei der Übereinstimmung
der Form, Stellung und Zahl der nach vorn gerichteten Zehen mit jenen
der Federn tragenden Archaeoptyerx lithographica Myr. wohl möglich,
dass diese Fährten gerade von diesem Urvogel herrühren, in welchem
Falle allerdings die kleine vierte Zehe seines Fusses keinen Abdruck
hinterlassen haben würde.

The animal appears to have hopped along with both feet at the same
time, as birds are in the habit of often doing; and it is entirely
possible, given the correspondence of  the form, placement, and number
of the forward-directed toes with those of the feather-bearing
Archaeoperyx lithographica Myr., that these tracks come  just as well
from this Urvogel [primordial bird], in which case, though, the small
fourth toe on its foot would have left no impression.

The whole story of how these limulid tracks were interpreted as
Archaeopteryx tracks is a rather amusing one. It supposedly dragged
its tail but left no feather marks. Some point-like marks were even
thought to show that it used its clawed wings for support on the

For a later drawing of the supposed tracks, see:


For Oppel’s 1862 description in German: