A short history of research on Archaeopteryx and its relationship with dinosaurs
Published:January 01, 2010
Peter Wellnhofer, 2010. "A short history of research on Archaeopteryx and its relationship with dinosaurs", Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, R. T. J. Moody, E. Buffetaut, D. Naish, D. M. Martill
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Archaeopteryx, first discovered in 1861 from the Solnhofen lithographic limestone of Bavaria, is the oldest feathered animal in the fossil record. Since its discovery it has been the focus of discussions about avian ancestry. Its mosaic of saurian and avian skeletal characters made it the classical ‘missing link’ of the Darwinian Theory of evolution. Even as early as 1868 Huxley advocated a close dinosaurian relationship of birds, a position followed later by such palaeontological luminaries as Marsh, Baur, Nopcsa and Abel, among others. Only in 1926, when Gerhard Heilmann published his seminal work, The Origin of Birds, was a ‘thecodontian’ origin of birds favoured. This book dominated perceptions of avian origins for the next half century, until John H. Ostrom reinvigorated the hypothesis of a dinosaurian ancestry for birds based on more Archaeopteryx specimens and new discoveries of theropod dinosaurs. Finally, the advent of cladistic methodology was instrumental in supporting Archaeopteryx and Aves within the theropod clade Maniraptora, a view almost ubiquituous today.
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Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective
The discovery of dinosaurs and other large extinct ‘saurians’—a term under which the Victorians commonly lumped ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and their kin—makes exciting reading and has caught the attention of palaeontologists, historians of science and the general public alike. The papers in this collection go beyond the familiar tales about famous ‘fossil hunters’ and focus on relatively little-known episodes in the discovery and interpretation (from both a scientific and an artistic point of view) of dinosaurs and other inhabitants of the Mesozoic world. They cover a long time span, from the beginnings of ‘modern’ scientific palaeontology in the 1700s to the present, and deal with many parts of the world, from the Yorkshire coast to Central India, from Bavaria to the Sahara. The characters in these stories include professional palaeontologists and geologists (some of them well-known, others quite obscure), explorers, amateur fossil collectors, and artists, linked together by their interest in Mesozoic creatures.