The extraordinary contributions of palaeontology to the science of evolution are familiar enough to the specialist, but often the details, if not the names, are arcane matters that ensure that the increasingly silent companion on the train to Paddington is reduced first to repeated glances out of the window, then glazed boredom, and finally catatonic stupor as the enthusiast drones on. But if there is an exception to this rule it has to be the bird, or dinosaur, or bird-dinosaur, or bird-something, Archaeopteryx. Known only from a handful of specimens, of which the famous London and Berlin specimens stand...

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