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Berlin archaeopteryx
Archaeopteryx
is a theropod dinosaur from the Jurassic period. It was once thought to be the earliest bird, although some Palaeontologists still protect this classification.

The known specimens come from the Solnhofen limestone in Bavaria, Germany. This site dates to about 150-148 million years in age and was once a coastal area.

Many species of Archaeopteryx have been named over the years, but few remain valid. The only accepted species today is the type, Archaeopteryx lithographica.

The genus has a long and exciting history. It was first described as a single feather in 1861, and soon after the first skeleton was discovered, which is dubbed the "London specimen". The fossil was given to a doctor, and was later sold to the Natural History Museum before being described by Sir Richard Owen as a primitve bird. The London specimen gained enough recognition to even be mentioned by Charles Darwin himself, in the 4th edition of On the Origin of Species.

The most famous specimen, the "Berlin specimen", was discovered in 1875 by a farmer. who sold it to gain money for buying a cow. The fossil changed hands again and again through the next few years. Othniel Charles Marsh may even have bought it at one point. Eventually, it ended up in the Humboldt Museum für Naturkunde, where it remains today as one of the most recognizable fossils in the world.

In 2011, scientists examined the original feather of Archaeopteryx with a light microscope. The fossil was well preserved enough to hold the shape of melanosomes, which determines color. By comparing the shape of those melanosomes with modern birds, they determined that the color of Archaeopteryx's feathers was black.

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