Christian Foth & Oliver W. M. Rauhut (2017)
Re-evaluation of the Haarlem Archaeopteryx and the radiation of maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs.
BMC Evolutionary Biology 17:236Â
Archaeopteryx is an iconic fossil that has long been pivotal for our understanding of the origin of birds. Remains of this important taxon have only been found in the Late Jurassic lithographic limestones of Bavaria, Germany. Twelve skeletal specimens are reported so far. Archaeopteryx was long the only pre-Cretaceous paravian theropod known, but recent discoveries from the Tiaojishan Formation, China, yielded a remarkable diversity of this clade, including the possibly oldest and most basal known clade of avialan, here named Anchiornithidae. However, Archaeopteryx remains the only Jurassic paravian theropod based on diagnostic material reported outside China.
Re-examination of the incomplete Haarlem Archaeopteryx specimen did not find any diagnostic features of this genus. In contrast, the specimen markedly differs in proportions from other Archaeopteryx specimens and shares two distinct characters with anchiornithids. Phylogenetic analysis confirms it as the first anchiornithid recorded outside the Tiaojushan Formation of China, for which the new generic name Ostromia is proposed here.
In combination with a biogeographic analysis of coelurosaurian theropods and palaeogeographic and stratigraphic data, our results indicate an explosive radiation of maniraptoran coelurosaurs probably in isolation in eastern Asia in the late Middle Jurassic and a rapid, at least Laurasian dispersal of the different subclades in the Late Jurassic. Small body size and, possibly, a multiple origin of flight capabilities enhanced dispersal capabilities of paravian theropods and might thus have been crucial for their evolutionary success.