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Extinction of the Dinosaurs | Flying Dinosaurs
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The Color of Dinosaur Skin  | The Texture of Dinosaur Skin
T-Rex as Scavenger | Warm-blooded vs. Cold-blooded


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Flying Dinosaurs
People familiar with Pterodactylus (tehr-o-DAK-til-us) and Pteranodon (teh-RAN-o-dahn) may wonder why they cannot be found in the Dinosaur Bios. The reason is that pterosaurs (to give them their group name) were not dinosaurs, although they were related to them; they were flying reptiles.

Archaeopteryx (ar-kee-OP-ter-iks), on the other hand, is considered by most to be a true flying dinosaur. It has feathers, and only birds have feathers; therefore, Archaeopteryx is usually considered a bird. (This argues for the evolution of birds from theropods.) Seven specimens showing the faint impression of feathers have been found. In one case (the Teyler specimen) the fossil was mis-identified in 1857, and the error was not corrected until 1970 when the feathers were first detected. This incident reaffirms the adage that some of the best discoveries are made in museum storerooms. Another Archaeopteryx specimen was mis-identified as a Compsognathus in 1951. When the skeletons of Compsognathus and Archaeopteryx are compared, it is easy to see how the fossils might be confused and how some conclude that birds are descended from coelurosaurian dinosaurs.

Archaeopteryx's first toe, pointing backwards, would have permitted it to grip a branch or perch exactly like a modern bird. However, the lack of bone structure to support adequate wing muscles suggests that Archaeopteryx could not fly as well as modern birds. Instead, it may have clambered into trees and then glided to another tree or to the ground. The claws on its wings would have been useful for climbing, not unlike the modern day baby hoatzin from South America, which also has claws on its wings for climbing in trees.

Sinornis (seh-NOR-niss), a recent find from China, may prove to be a link between Archaeopteryx and modern birds.

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