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Friday, December 02, 2005 

New Archaeopteryx fossil provides further insight into bird, dinosaur evolution

Early-bird fossil features dinosaur feet

When it comes to feet, the earliest-known bird species had more in common with Velociraptors than cardinals.

Modern bird feet have a hind toe that points backward and helps the birds perch on branches, power lines, and pirates' shoulders. And until a recent discovery of an extremely well-preserved skeleton of the earliest-known bird species, Archaeopteryx, scientists believed it too had a "perching toe."

The new fossil, known as the "Thermopolis specimen," is incredibly well-preserved. It left clear impressions of its wing and tail feathers in the limestone it was encased in, and the skull is the best-preserved of all the 10 specimens ever discovered. But it may be the feet that prove to be the most important aspect of the find.

Other links:
Science summary
Science research article

Also posted on Panda's Thumb since I'm too far behind even in lay reading in this area to be able to make any insightful comments beyond, "this is so cool!" :) Hopefully some of the experts there will pick up my slack.


About me

  • I'm Tara C. Smith
  • From Iowa, United States
  • I'm a mom and a scientist, your basic stressed-out, wanna-have-it-all-and-do-it-all Gen Xer. Recently transplanted from Ohio to Iowa, I've spent most of my life in the midwest (with 4 years of college spent out east in "soda" territory). My main interest, and the subject of my research, is infectious disease: how does the microbe cause illness? What makes one strain nasty, and another "avirulent?" Are the latter really not causing any disease, or could some of those be possible for the development of chronic disease years down the road? Additionally, I've spent a lot of time discussing the value of teaching evolution, and educating others about "intelligent design" and other forms of creationism. My interest in history of science and medicine is also useful as a way to tie all of the above interests together. [Disclaimer: the views here are solely my own, and do not represent my employer, my spouse, that guy who's always sitting by the fountain when I come into work, or anyone else with whom I may be remotely affiliated.]
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