For the March 14 session of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology’s 2019 Speaker Series, Dr. Jon Noad (Gran Tierra Energy) will present “Archaeopteryx: The most famous bird in history.”
Archaeopteryx has captured the imagination of millions since its discovery over 150 years ago in southern Germany. Long considered as the transitional species between dinosaurs and birds, time has done little to lessen the scientific impact of Archaeopteryx. Twelve specimens, in various states of preservation, have been recovered from the Late Jurassic lagerstätten of the Solnhofen Limestone. These specimens have helped to build a picture of a magpie-sized bird that may have been capable of powered flight. The stories of the individual fossils are captivating—including one that went missing—and their scientific value is almost incalculable.
The Archaeopteryx fossils were recovered from a thinly laminated mudstone deposited during the Jurassic in a series of basins separated by coral reefs. A combination of periodic high amounts of saltiness, stagnation, and partial absence of oxygen meant that any animals entering the affected waters died almost instantly, sinking to the basin floor where their corpses were entombed. Scavengers were absent due to the toxic conditions near the seabed, meaning that many animals were almost perfectly preserved.
Detailed comparative anatomy has shown the similarity of Archaeopteryx to birds and small theropod dinosaurs. The superb preservation of the Solnhofen fossils shows their plumage, and recent studies have provided evidence for the colour, and potential for flight.
Dr. Jon Noad will discuss the palaeontological history of Archaeopteryx and its ecological niche in the Late Jurassic world.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and open to the public. Presentations are given in the Museum auditorium every Thursday at 11:00 a.m. until April 25. Speaker Series talks are also available on the Museum’s YouTube channel at: youtube.com/c/RoyalTyrrellMuseumofPalaeontology.