Dinosaurs Connections

From Dinosaurs to Birds

What are some of the Archaeopteryx fossils found to date?

There have been 11 actual specimens and many feathers found of the Archaeopteryx to date. Here is a list of nine discoveries made so far:

The Haarlem specimen was found near Reidenburg in 1855, five years before the feather was discovered. Because it was not known to be a fossil of an early bird, it was classified as a Pterodactylus crassipes, or pterodactyl (not even a dinosaur); in 1970, John Ostrom examined the fossil and found evidence of feathers, and thus, its true identity. It is currently at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

The London specimen was found in 1861 near Langenaltheim. It was eventually bought by the British Museum of Natural History (under the instruction of Richard Owen) from Carl Haberlein.

The Berlin specimen was found in 1876 or 1877 near Blumenberg, and sported a complete head (although it was badly crushed). It is housed at the Humboldt Museum für Naturkunde.

The Eichstatt specimen was found in 1951 or 1955, depending on sources, and is the smallest of all the Archaeopteryx lithographica, measuring about two-thirds the size of the other specimens; it also has the most well-preserved head found so far. It had a different tooth structure and its shoulder bones are not ossified as much as the other specimens, making many scientists believe this animal is an example of a different genus. Other scientists believe that the fossil represents a juvenile Archaeopteryx lithographica, or a species from an area with different food, thus the different structures. It is currently at the Jura Museum in Eichstätt, Germany.

The Maxburg specimen was found in 1958 near the same place as the London specimen in Langenaltheim. The fossil represents the animal’s torso only and is the only specimen to be privately owned. It was found by Eduard Opitsch, who died in 1991; after his death, the specimen was found to be missing, and is thought to have been secretly sold. Thus, the whereabouts of this specimen remains a mystery today.

The Solnhofen specimen was found in the 1960s near Eichstatt and was at first thought to be a Compsognathus. After preparing the specimen in the lab, scientists noticed that its arms were too long for its body size; they also found feathers, and so the creature joined the list of Archaeopteryx lithographica. It is currently at the Bürgermeister-Müller Museum in Solnhofen.

The Munich specimen (formerly the Solnhofen-Aktien-Verein specimen) of an Archaeopteryx has a small ossified sternum and feather impressions. Interestingly enough, it was found in 1991 and described in 1993; it is classified by some scientists as a new species: Archaeopteryx bavarica. It is currently at the Paläontologisches Museum in Munich.

The Bürgermeister-Müller specimen was uncovered in 1997. This fragmentary fossil is currently at the Bürgermeister-Müller Museum.

Finally, the Thermopolis specimen, long in a private collection, was discovered in Germany and described in 2005.


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