That New Archaeopteryx Research

Recently, a paper came out with research indicating that Archaeopteryx, the famous feathered fossil, may not be on the bird lineage after all. This paper was discussed briefly in the blogosphere, but I was fairly unsatisfied with the level of treatment it received. The research is a little difficult to understand unless you are a specialist in the field. Essentially, a different species (not Archaeopteryx) was being studied, and in so doing, it knocked Archaeopteryx off the phylogenetic branch on which it has been resting tenuously in recent years. The other fossil species didn’t displace Archaeopteryx. It’s just that when carrying out the study a re-evaluation of the way we place these fossils in relation to each other on an evolutionary tree shifted around and Archaeopteryx got moved.

You can see why this could be complicated. You can also see why I wrote a whole blog post explaining it in a way that anyone can understand and appreciate this new research. The post is this month’s contribution to 10,000 Birds: What happened with Archaeopteryx?

Please go read it! Comment! Ask questions! Yell at me for getting Cladists wrong (cladists tend to hate me!) Tweet it! (it is a post about birds, after all). If I don’t get a lot of activity over on my 10,000 Birds posts, I’m afraid they won’t give me the nice binoculars they promised me!

Go check it out!

Comments

  1. #1 StevoR
    August 20, 2011

    Am I mistaken or do I vaguely recall that the Archaeopteryx was orginally classified as a dinosaur species until someone looked closely at one particular fossil of it and noticed imprints of feathers?

    Also isn’t there a bird species alive today that has claws on its wings and teeth – a Mexican one perhaps? Can’t quite recall the name of it though.

  2. #2 hoary puccoon
    August 20, 2011

    StevoR–

    We saw those birds in Venezuela, on a stream off the Apure River. (That would be the Orinoco basin.) I’m not sure they have teeth, but our guide told us the young have claws on their wings. They are called something like guacharaca de agua in Venezuelan Spanish and something like huatsin in English. They are clumsy fliers, and would let us get our canoe right under them. But if we stopped to take a picture, the whole treeful of them would take off.

    A quick trip to Bing said they are also called stinky birds in English. Our guide said that they survive in spite of their clumsy flight because they give off an odor most predators find repellent.