June 20, 1997
Contact: Pat Kremer
| The Field Museum|
The Earth And Its
In 1861, paleontologists made a shocking discovery in a German limestone quarry. Etched in a 150-million-year-old slab of rock was a creature almost too strange to believe. It looked like a small dinosaur -- with a long tail, sharp teeth, and clawed forelimbs. But it had feathers and wings like a bird!
Named Archaeopteryx for "ancient wing", the prehistoric bird was hailed as a "missing link" between dinosaurs and birds. In the next 136 years, only six other fossil Archaeopteryx skeletons were unearthed, all in the famous Solnhofen limestone quarries of Bavaria, Germany. Not one of the famous seven fossils has ever been exhibited outside Europe -- until now.
For the first time in North America, an Archaeopteryx will be on display at The Field Museum in Chicago from October 4 to 19, 1997, in the special exhibit - Archaeopteryx: The Bird That Rocked the World.
One of the World's Most Famous Fossils
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an original specimen of Archaeopteryx here in the United States," says Field Museum paleontologist Olivier Rieppel. "It's a very rare and extremely important fossil - one of the most famous in the world."
Archaeopteryx was the first transitional fossil ever found. A transitional fossil helps scientists understand how a new group of organisms, in this case birds, evolved from an existing group, reptiles. Fossils in general are rare; transitional fossils are very rare.
It was Charles Darwin who first predicted the existence of transitional animals with his theory of evolution. The first Archaeopteryx fossil, found just two years after Darwin's "origin of Species" was published, was hailed as "living proof" of his then controversial theory.
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