Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx lithographica is the most famous fossil bird. 

The specimen at the Natural History Museum originates from the latest Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone in Bavaria, Germany. 

It was among more than 1,900 Solnhofen fossils bought from Dr Karl Haberlein in 1862 for £700.

Why is Archaeopteryx so important?

Archaeopteryx shows a unique combination of dinosaur and bird characters. It is one of the few fossils that actually show evolution in action and the transition between 2 major groups of animals.

The key avian characters are the:

  • impressions of flight feathers identical to those of modern birds
  • wishbone
  • perching foot

These contrast with what otherwise looks like the skeleton of a small theropod dinosaur similar to Deinonychus.