Archaeopteryx flapped its wings but was not capable of long distance flight. Nor could it soar like birds of prey.
Instead, the feathered Jurassic creature probably made short bursts of limited low-level flight to escape danger, say experts in Grenoble, France, after X-ray analysis of fossil bones.
Pheasants fly in a similar way to avoid predators or human hunters.
Archaeopteryx – which means “ancient wing” – lived in the Late Jurassic period in what is now southern Germany.
The first fossil skeleton of one of the creatures, known as the London Specimen, was unearthed in 1861 near Langenaltheim and is housed at London’s Natural History Museum.
Similar in size to a magpie, it shared characteristics of Earth-bound dinosaurs and modern birds, including winged feathers, sharp teeth, three fingers with claws, and a long bony tail.
However despite being thought of as the first bird, experts now view Archeopteryx as a flying dinosaur.
Nor was it a direct ancestor of modern birds. Despite sharing a common dinosaur ancestor with birds, Archaeopteryx represents a “dead end” side branch on the evolutionary tree.
Present day birds are generally believed to have evolved from a group of small meat-eating dinosaurs known as maniraptoran theropods.
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