A WINGED beast from 150million years ago has been identified as the missing link between dinosaurs and birds.
Archaeopteryx albersdoerferi was able to fly thanks to its thin, air-filled bones, similar to those in birds today.
However, it was different from earlier species of archaeopteryx because it had fused bones in its skull and fewer teeth, researchers say.
Lead author Prof Martin Kundrat, from the University of Pavol Jozef Safarik, Slovakia, said: “Archaeopteryx albersdoerferi is one of the most important specimens of Archaeopteryx because it is around 400,000 years younger than any of the others found so far.
“This is the first time that numerous bones and teeth of Archaeopteryx were viewed from all aspects including exposure of their inner structure.Archaeopteryx means “ancient wing”. The first fossil skeleton was unearthed in Germany in 1861 and is housed at London’s Natural History Museum.
Prof Kundrat and colleagues used a state-of-the-art 3D X-ray scanning technique called Synchrotron microtomography to virtually dissect the fossil.
It shows that albersdoerferi was a stepping stone on the flying dinosaurs’ evolution into birds.
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The discovery also kills off claims that archaeopteryx was no more than a feathered dinosaur.
The findings are from analysis of a raven-sized fossil found in a German quarry in 1990 and nicknamed The Phantom.
Swedish researcher Prof Per Ahlberg said: “It shares more features in common with modern birds than their dinosaurian ancestors.”
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