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Detection of lost calamus challenges identity of isolated Archaeopteryx feather

Published on Dec 1, 2019in Scientific Reports4.011
· DOI :10.1038/s41598-018-37343-7
Thomas G. Kaye10
Estimated H-index: 10
(AmeriCorps VISTA),
Michael Pittman11
Estimated H-index: 11
(HKU: University of Hong Kong)
+ 2 AuthorsXing Xu44
Estimated H-index: 44
(CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)
Sources
Abstract
In 1862, a fossil feather from the Solnhofen quarries was described as the holotype of the iconic Archaeopteryx lithographica. The isolated feather’s identification has been problematic, and the fossil was considered either a primary, secondary or, most recently, a primary covert. The specimen is surrounded by the ‘mystery of the missing quill’. The calamus described in the original paper is unseen today, even under x-ray fluorescence and UV imaging, challenging its original existence. We answer this question using Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) through the recovery of the geochemical halo from the original calamus matching the published description. Our study therefore shows that new techniques applied to well-studied iconic fossils can still provide valuable insights. The morphology of the complete feather excludes it as a primary, secondary or tail feather of Archaeopteryx. However, it could be a covert or a contour feather, especially since the latter are not well known in Archaeopteryx. The possibility remains that it stems from a different feathered dinosaur that lived in the Solnhofen Archipelago. The most recent analysis of the isolated feather considers it to be a primary covert. If this is the case, it lacks a distinct s-shaped centerline found in modern primary coverts that appears to be documented here for the first time.
  • References (17)
  • Citations (2)
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References17
Newest
#1Martin Kundrát (University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik)H-Index: 12
#2John R. Nudds (University of Manchester)H-Index: 6
Last. Per Ahlberg (Uppsala University)H-Index: 25
view all 5 authors...
ABSTRACTFrom an initial isolated position as the oldest evolutionary prototype of a bird, Archaeopteryx has, as a result of recent fossil discoveries, become embedded in a rich phylogenetic context...
4 CitationsSource
#1Xiaoli Wang (LYU: Linyi University)H-Index: 24
#2Michael Pittman (HKU: University of Hong Kong)H-Index: 11
Last. Xing Xu (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 44
view all 7 authors...
Soft tissues are rarely preserved in the fossil record; therefore, body shape of extinct vertebrates is usually inferred indirectly. Here, the authors use laser-stimulated fluorescence of fossils to detect and reconstruct the body outline of the paravian dinosaur Anchiornis from the Late Jurassic.
15 CitationsSource
#1Christian Foth (University of Fribourg)H-Index: 11
#2Oliver W. M. Rauhut (LMU: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)H-Index: 28
Archaeopteryx is an iconic fossil that has long been pivotal for our understanding of the origin of birds. Remains of this important taxon have only been found in the Late Jurassic lithographic limestones of Bavaria, Germany. Twelve skeletal specimens are reported so far. Archaeopteryx was long the only pre-Cretaceous paravian theropod known, but recent discoveries from the Tiaojishan Formation, China, yielded a remarkable diversity of this clade, including the possibly oldest and most basal kno...
11 CitationsSource
#1Amanda R. FalkH-Index: 9
#2Thomas G. KayeH-Index: 10
Last. Matthew D. ShawkeyH-Index: 31
view all 5 authors...
9 CitationsSource
#1Thomas G. Kaye (AMNH: American Museum of Natural History)H-Index: 10
#2Amanda R. Falk (Southwestern Oklahoma State University)H-Index: 9
Last. Yinan WangH-Index: 1
view all 9 authors...
Fluorescence using ultraviolet (UV) light has seen increased use as a tool in paleontology over the last decade. Laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) is a next generation technique that is emerging as a way to fluoresce paleontological specimens that remain dark under typical UV. A laser’s ability to concentrate very high flux rates both at the macroscopic and microscopic levels results in specimens fluorescing in ways a standard UV bulb cannot induce. Presented here are five paleontological case...
20 CitationsSource
#1Christian FothH-Index: 11
#2Helmut TischlingerH-Index: 3
Last. Oliver W. M. RauhutH-Index: 28
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The discovery of numerous feathered dinosaurs and early birds has set the iconic 'Urvogel' (or 'first bird') Archaeopteryx in a broader context. But this venerable taxon still has the capacity to surprise. A newly discovered specimen from the Solnhofen limestone in Bavaria only the eleventh since 1861 shows a generous covering of feathers all over the body. Of particular note is a hindlimb covering resembling feathered 'trousers'. Analysis of feather distribution on the limbs and tail strongly s...
97 CitationsSource
#1P. M. Manning (University of Manchester)H-Index: 68
#2Nicholas P. Edwards (University of Manchester)H-Index: 11
Last. William I. Sellers (University of Manchester)H-Index: 27
view all 11 authors...
Charles Darwin acknowledged the importance of colour in the natural selection of bird plumage. Colour can indicate age, sex, and diet, as well as play roles in camouflage, mating and establishing territories. Feather and integument colour depend on both chemical and structural characteristics and so melanosome structure and trace metal biomarkers can be used to infer colour and pigment patterns in a range of extant and fossil organisms. In this study, three key specimens of Archaeopteryx were su...
37 CitationsSource
#1Nicholas R. Longrich (Yale University)H-Index: 20
#2Jakob Vinther (UoB: University of Bristol)H-Index: 28
Last. Anthony P. Russell (U of C: University of Calgary)H-Index: 38
view all 5 authors...
Summary In modern birds (Neornithes), the wing is composed of a layer of long, asymmetrical flight feathers overlain by short covert feathers [1–3]. It has generally been assumed that wing feathers in the Jurassic bird Archaeopteryx [4–9] and Cretaceous feathered dinosaurs [10, 11] had the same arrangement. Here, we redescribe the wings of the archaic bird Archaeopteryx lithographica [3–5] and the dinosaur Anchiornis huxleyi [12, 13] and show that their wings differ from those of Neornithes in b...
36 CitationsSource
Recent discoveries in Asia have greatly increased our understanding of the evolution of dinosaurs’ integumentary structures, revealing a previously unexpected diversity of “protofeathers” and feathers. However, all theropod dinosaurs with preserved feathers reported so far are coelurosaurs. Evidence for filaments or feathers in noncoelurosaurian theropods is circumstantial and debated. Here we report an exceptionally preserved skeleton of a juvenile megalosauroid, Sciurumimus albersdoerferi n. g...
59 CitationsSource
#1Ryan M. Carney (Brown University)H-Index: 11
#2Jakob VintherH-Index: 28
Last. Jörg Ackermann (ZEISS: Carl Zeiss AG)H-Index: 1
view all 5 authors...
Archaeopteryx combined features of reptiles and birds, but the colour of its feathers has remained unclear. In this study, based on data from fossilized colour-imparting melanosomes, an isolated feather specimen from Archaeopteryx is predicted to be black, providing clues to its plumage colour and function.
46 CitationsSource
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Newest
#1Martin Kundrát (University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik)H-Index: 12
#2Thomas H. RichH-Index: 28
Last. Benjamin P. Kear (Uppsala University)H-Index: 24
view all 7 authors...
ABSTRACT Exceptionally preserved Mesozoic feathered dinosaur fossils (including birds) are famous, but recognized from only very few localities worldwide, and are especially rare in the Southern Hemisphere. Here we report an assemblage of non-avian and avian dinosaur feathers from an Early Cretaceous polar (around 70°S) environment in what is now southeastern Australia. The recovered remains incorporate small (10–30 mm long) basal paravian-like tufted body feathers, open-vaned contour feathers, ...
Source
#1Arindam Roy (HKU: University of Hong Kong)H-Index: 1
#2Michael Pittman (HKU: University of Hong Kong)H-Index: 11
Last. Xing Xu (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 44
view all 5 authors...
1 CitationsSource
#1Thomas G. Kaye (AmeriCorps VISTA)H-Index: 10
#2Michael Pittman (HKU: University of Hong Kong)H-Index: 11
Last. Angela D. Buscalioni (UAM: Autonomous University of Madrid)H-Index: 26
view all 6 authors...
Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) is used to identify fully fledged feathering in the hatchling enantiornithine bird specimen MPCM-LH-26189, supporting precocial nesting behavior in this extinct group. The LSF results include the detection of a long pennaceous wing feather as well as cover feathers around the body. The LSF technique showed improved detection limits over and above synchrotron and UV imaging which had both been performed on this specimen. The findings underscore the value of usi...
1 CitationsSource