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Scientists prove Archaeopteryx was not the first to fly

Archaeopteryx was not the first bird or dinosaur capable of flight according to new research conducted by Mark Puttick of the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences and Mike Benton, Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol, that was presented at the University of Bristol website on Feb. 23, 2014.

The holotype of Microraptor gui, IVPP V 13352 under normal light. This shows the preserved feathers (white arrow) and the 'halo' around the specimen where they appear to be absent (black arrows). Scale bar at 5 cm.
David W. E. Hone, Helmut Tischlinger, Xing Xu, Fucheng Zhang PLoS ONE 5(2): e9223. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009223 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

The researchers contend that size reduction and extended forelimb lengths were the necessities required for flight. Flight in dinosaurs was probable at least 20 million years before Archaeopteryx arose and flew.

The Paraves are the first dinosaurs that exhibit the low weight and extended forearm necessary for flight. The Paraves were estimated to be about 65 centimeters long, weighed between 600 and 700 grams, had feathers, and had claws. The claws enabled the dinosaurs to scale trees and rocks and glide from them. The Paraves did not flap their forearms like birds flap their wings.

The study accounted for the recent discoveries of feathered dinosaurs in China and Canada and is the first to use mathematical predictions that span the entire lineage of birds to produce a reasonable estimate of when dinosaurs first took to the air with feathers.

The transition of dinosaurs to birds spanned at least 20 million years. While Archaeopteryx may still be considered the first transition between dinosaurs and birds, a multitude of dinosaurs could fly.