Here are ten facts about archaeopteryx.
- The archaeopteryx was much smaller than most people realize. It was only about the size of a large pigeon, measuring 20 inches in length and weighing a few pounds.
- They lived in what is now Southern Germany, about 150 million years ago. Europe at that time was a lot closer to the equator and had a tropical climate.
- The archaeopteryx is sometimes regarded as the first true bird, with feathers and a beak. However, it also had claws on each wing and sharp teeth, making it more like a dinosaur.
- The feathers of the archaeopteryx were structurally unsuitable for flight, meaning that the creature probably glided for short distances, rather than actually flew. It probably lived in trees.
- The first fossils of the bird were discovered in 1861, 2 years after Charles Darwin published his controversial theory of evolution. The discovery meant that Darwin’s theory gained more support.
- Since then, many fossils have been discovered in the same limestone beds in Germany. Well preserved flying reptiles and prehistoric fish have been found in these same limestone beds.
- The archaeopteryx was probably extremely intelligent, with a large brain in comparison to its body size. Research also suggests that the species also had better than average hearing and muscle coordination.
- Although archaeopteryx was warm blooded, it was probably fairly slow moving and sluggish. New born birds probably took around 3 years to grow to full size.
- The archaeopteryx ate smaller creatures, such as bugs, mites, frogs and lizards. It may even have been able to catch smaller creatures in its wings.An 1897 play by the French writer, Alfred Jarry, featured an archaeopteryx as a main character. An asteroid belt was also named after the species, in 1991.