STL Science Center

STL Science Center

18 January 2012

Finding Urvogel

Today, with the encyclopedia blackouts and everything in protest of Congress... which I suppose could shut down this site as well which would be a terrible thing and therefore I'm fully into backing the cause against the SOPA and PIPA bills sitting in Congress I cannot really check the English encyclopedia to double check facts there easily.

Now, Urvogel, Archaeopteryx, sorry, I have to read the German encyclopedia today to check my facts, was discovered initially around 1861, give or take a few months since it is not known exactly how it ended up in the hands of a physician named Karl Haberlein. Haberlein sold the specimen, the initial fossil animal to the Natural History Museum of London where Sir Richard Owen described it and gave it a name borrowed from the name given to the initial feather fossil described by Hermann von Meyer a short time before. I think we've discussed most of this before on here. Archaeopteryx, ever since the Owen and Meyer descriptions, has been a hotbed of hoax theories, flight theories, and intense debate about the origin of birds and dinosaurs' roles in that origin. Some scientists have abandoned the bird dinosaur link altogether even and judged that an early relative to the line that began the dinosaurs is actually the line that started birds, not dinosaurs at all.

Archaeopteryx, however, remains at the heart of most debate and discussion concerning the origin of birds as the thecodont evolution theory, while supported by Larry Martin and Alan Feduccia, does not have anywhere near the same level of support. Archaeopteryx, in part, had the fortunate timing of being found by man to coincide with the rising popularity and circulation of Darwin's Origin of Species, which may account for why it has stayed so central to the transitional fossil debate of birds and dinosaurs. The book was gaining popularity in the scientific community of the world as this feathered dinosaur was dusted off and described for the first time.

Scott Hartman has pointed out in his description of the Thermopolis Specimen, as an example of counterpoint to the Archaeopteryx as a bird viewpoint, that the legs of Archaeopteryx in the Thermopolis Specimen are of a more theropod ratio of proportion to the rest of the body showing that Achaeopteryx was more dinosaur than it was bird. In Mr. Hartman's own words, "The legs are a tad longer than average for the genus, and the arms noticeably shorter, adding to the (largely correct) impression that it's 'just another' feathered theropod rather than 'a bird'."


  1. Thanks for the post. I am doing some research on the Urvogel and your Scott Hartman quote led me to his work which was valuable.

    1. You're very welcome, that's part of what we're here for!