Original paper

Archaeopteryx – a re-evaluation suggesting an arboreal habitat and an intermediate stage in trees down origin of flight

Burnham, David A.


The fossil-lagerstätte of the Upper Jurassic Solnhofen Formation contains the earliest known specimens of Archaeopteryx. The paleoecology that was indigenous for these archaeopterygian birds is not well known. The marine Solnhofen Formation also included other such terrestrial fliers as pterosaurs and insects. These volant (i.e., able to fly) taxa along with continental plant material were likely blown over the marine waters by storms some distance from their natural habitat. These terrestrial organisms could only have originated from nearby landmasses with freshwater that supported a open forests of conifers and other gymnosperms. This habitat was ideal for the skeletal adaptations seen in Archaeopteryx in which its' climbing ability far outweighed its putative cursorial attributes. Moreover, these archaeopterygian birds were constructed primitively compared to flapping flight mechanisms of Recent birds, further suggesting arboreal features in archaeopterygian birds were indicative of their lifestyle. With a primitive wing beat, Archaeopteryx represents an intermediate form between gliders and flapping fliers.


arborealarchaeopteryxmicroraptororigin of flightpaleoecologysolnhofen