Illustration of Archaeopteryx

1860 Archaeopteryx

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Richard Owen, Thomas Henry Huxley evolution Illustration of Archaeopteryx


Our little friend Archie talks to all of us with feathers and wings even if it cannot fly claws and teeth even if it cannot frighten a bird to lovers of birds an ancient reptile to lovers of dinosaurs between pages of limestone as the rarest pressed flower induces a state of mind that bridges present and past imagines reality and recognizes the unrecognized giving us a time, a precedent, 170 million years ago, when denial of precedent reached this delicate passage.

Ontology (phylogeny)

The embryo of the bird recapitulates its history written in stones. The Solnhofen limestones of Bavaria used for fine lithographic printing were found preprinted with delicate asymmetrical feathers and fragile bones retelling a story finer than history makes its own world new and the new world its own.

Making connections

In this light exposed in the interstices of stone we think of fears errors failures yet we may leap instantly between symbol and name name and individual individual and species believing and seeing. To say a thing is possible almost admits it has happened. A point on the hyperbole arbitrarily close to the asymptotic might never be reached. Faith is as inexplicable as love, whatever works and whatever reason cannot muster. Yet nothing could be easier. To refuse is almost as if being human were a weakness not a strength.

Palaeontologists today think that Archaeopteryx was not the first bird, although it is a good candidate for the transition between dinosaurs and birds. Like a therapod dinosaur, Archaeopteryx had small teeth and a long bony tail. Like a bird, Archaeopteryx had a wishbone, wings with asymmetrical flight feathers, and broad feathers on its tail. It was the size of raven or smaller.

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