The first specimen of Archaeopteryx from the Upper Jurassic Mörnsheim Formation of Germany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • John Nudds
  • Martin Kundrát
  • Ben Kear
  • Per Ahlberg
  • Juncheng Lu

Abstract

From an initial isolated position as the oldest evolutionary prototype of a bird, Archaeopteryx has, as a result of recent fossil discoveries, become embedded in a rich phylogenetic context of both more and less crownward stem-group birds, prompting debate over whether Archaeopteryx is simply a convergently bird-like non-avialan theropod. Here we show, using the first synchrotron microtomographic examination of this genus, that the eighth or Daiting
specimen of Archaeopteryx possesses a character suite that robustly constrains it as a basal avialan (primitive bird). The specimen, which comes from the Mörnsheim Formation and is thus younger than the other specimens from the underlying Solnhofen Formation, is distinctive enough to merit designation as a new species, Archaeopteryx albersdoerferi sp. nov., but is recovered in close phylogenetic proximity to Archaeopteryx lithographica. Skeletal innovations of the Daiting specimen, such as fusion and pneumatization of the cranial bones, well vascularized pectoral girdle and wing elements, and a reinforced configuration of carpals and metacarpals, suggest that it may have had more characters seen in flying birds than the older Archaeopteryx lithographica. These innovations appear to be convergent on those of more crownward avialans, suggesting that Bavarian archaeopterygids independently acquired increasingly bird-like traits over time. Such mosaic evolution and iterative exploration of adaptive space may be typical for major functional transitions like the origin of
flight.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Biology: an international journal of paleobiology
Volume31
Issue number1
Early online date24 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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