Day 03: Archaeopteryx, one of the most important dinosaurs in our unfolding understanding of the evolution of therapod dinosaurs into birds. Originally thought to be one of the earliest birds, it's since been reclassified as a dinosaur (and then a bird again, and then a dinosaur again). It's a dinosaur at the moment though, or was last I checked; and zoologically speaking they're the same thing anyway. The problem is, when one line evolves into another, there's no sharp line of delineation, but a series of small steps. So you have the non-avian dinosaurs on one side, the avian dinosaurs on the other, and a lot of murky sliding about betwixt and between. Which is where Archaeopteryx lies. Another German dinosaur this, and again from 150 million years ago, so quite possibly it flew over Sciurumimus, if not particularly gracefully.

Due to scanning elctron microscopy, and the good fortune of some very nice fossil specimens, it's been possible to look at the microscopic structure of Archaeopteryx's feathers, and it's generally assumed that they were black.


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