Feathered dinosaur or early bird?

12 September 2011 by Lisa

Dinosaur fever is never far away at World Museum. Our curators are currently gearing up for the forthcoming exhibition ‘Age of the Dinosaur’, which will be roaring its way into the building on 22 October.

Here’s one of our curators (and top dino-expert!) Geoff Tresise to give us the lowdown on another dinosaur you can expect to see in the exhibition… 

Archaeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur

Image courtesy of Natural History Museum

In 1861 a fossil found in Germany caused a sensation.  Named Archaeopteryx, it had the skeleton of a reptile but the wings and feathers of a bird.  It caused a stir – was this one of the ‘missing links’ predicted by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution?  Richard Owen, who opposed Darwin’s views, nevertheless bought the fossil for London’s Natural History Museum.  A second specimen, found 10 years later, went to a Berlin museum.

No other fossils have caused so much controversy, but did they prove Darwin’s theory?  Could Archaeopteryx fly or only glide from tree to tree?  There was even a suggestion, quickly disproved, that the first specimen was a fake.  Then in the 1990s new fossils were found in China, covered in feathers but clearly dinosaurs.  It was back to square one: was Archaeopteryx just another feathered dinosaur or did its wings prove it was a bird?

In the ‘Age of Dinosaur’ exhibition, you can see and hear Archaeopteryx in the Jurassic forest.  Then visit the our permanent dinosaur gallery at the museum, to see a cast of the Berlin Museum fossil.  A feathered dinosaur or an early bird?  Come along and judge for yourself. 

Watch a video about the Age of the Dinosaru exhibition here!

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