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Archaeopteryx (meaning ancient wing) is a very early
prehistoric bird, dating from about 150 million years ago during
the Jurassic period, when many dinosaurs lived. It is one of the
Archaeopteryx had three toes armed with claws and long, strong
legs. Clearly it walked and perched like a bird. Its head had the
reptilian feature of jawbones. Its spine was extended into a bony
tail - just like a reptile's. On both sides of the tail bones,
clearly visible, were the clinching characteristics of birds -
Archaeopteryx seemed to be part bird and part dinosaur. Unlike
modern-day birds, it had teeth, three claws on each wing, a flat
sternum (breastbone), belly ribs (gastralia), and a long, bony
tail. Like modern-day birds, it had feathers, a lightly-built
body with hollow bones, a wishbone (furcula) and reduced fingers.
This crow-sized animal may have been able to fly, but not very
far and not very well. Although it had feathers and could fly, it
had similarities to dinosaurs, including its teeth, skull, lack
of horny bill, and certain bone structures.
Some paleontologists think that Archaeopteryx was a dead-end in
evolution and that the maniraptors (a group of dinosaurs that included
the Dromaeosaurs Deinonychus, Utahraptor, and Velociraptor)
led to the birds.
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