Paper Challenges Ideas About 'Early Bird' Dinosaur
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD - NEW YORK TIMES
Added: Fri, 09 Oct 2009 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Catalin for the link.
The first fossil of the raven-size species was an immediate sensation when it was excavated in 1860, in southern Germany. It had feathers and a wishbone, like birds, but teeth and a long, bony tail, like reptiles. Coming the year after publication of âThe Origin of Species,â the discovery swayed many scientists into accepting Darwinâs theory of evolution by natural selection.
Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwinâs staunch ally, recognized the fossil in a limestone slab as a transitional species between dinosaurs and birds. Over time, the 10 known specimens of Archaeopteryx became widely regarded as examples of the earliest bird, which lived about 150 million years ago.
Now scientists examining tiny pieces of a specimenâs long bone under powerful microscopes for the first time said they found unexpected patterns indicating that the species grew at a rate faster than living reptiles but only one-third as fast as that of modern birds. The evidence, they reported Thursday, challenges the hypothesis that Archaeopteryx had already developed characteristics of a physiologically modern bird.
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