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Tue Mar 13, 2018, 04:37 PM

Archaeopteryx 'flew in bursts like a pheasant', scientists say

Source: The Guardian

Archaeopteryx 'flew in bursts like a pheasant', scientists say

The winged Late Jurassic creature would take to the air in frenetic, flapping bounds, fossil x-rays show

Ian Sample Science editor
Tue 13 Mar 2018 18.03 GMT

Archaeopteryx, one of life on Earth’s first stabs at building a bird, evaded predators and cleared obstacles on the ground by bursting into flight like a startled pheasant, a new analysis suggests.

High-resolution x-ray images of the creature’s skeleton reveal tell-tale similarities with the bones of birds that cannot glide or soar but instead take to the air in frenetic, flapping bounds, scientists say.

The findings add to a debate that has surrounded the Late Jurassic beast since the first fossilised remains were recovered from a limestone quarry in Bavaria in the 19th century. While Archaeopteryx definitely sported an elaborate plumage, how and even whether it flew was far from clear.

“This is the best indication for active flight in Archaeopteryx that we’ve had in 150 years,” said Dennis Voeten, a palaeontologist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble. “But I am under no illusion that this will end the debate.”

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/mar/13/archaeopteryx-flew-in-bursts-like-a-pheasant-scientists-say

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