A fossilized feather discovered 159 years ago in Germany has been brought back to the paleontological spotlight, with recent research claiming that the bird belonged to the bird-like Archaeopteryx, much to some scientists’ chagrin.
When discovered out of context and in the absence of other clues, an isolated feather fossil becomes severe stress for paleontologists.
The same happened with the 150-million-year-old feather discovered at a German limestone quarry in 1861.
As there was no reference available, scientists couldn’t decide which species the fossil belonged to or which part of the body it fell off from.
An Archaeopteryx was discovered a few years later, and scientists were quick to link the two together.
The connection wasn’t entirely outrageous, as scientists discovered other reasons to connect the dinosaur to the feather.
The Archaeopteryx dates back to the Jurassic. It is a highly essential species, as it marks one of the most critical evolutionary links between dinosaurs and birds.
One year ago, Michael Pittman, a research paper co-author from the University of Hong Kong, put a big question mark on the assumptions, claiming that the unusual, isolated feather is the remnant of an “unknown feathered dinosaur” and most likely not an Archaeopteryx.
However, an international team of scientists led by the University of South Florida worked on a paper that claims that the feather does belong to an Archaeopteryx, as previously believed.
Ryan Carney, the first author of the new paper, stated:
“We wanted to formally address the errors and set the (fossil) record straight, so to speak.”
“Plus, I was a big debate nerd in high school, so I relish this sort of thing,” he added.