Archaeopteryx perched on branch of conifer tree, with wings spread open


Archaeopteryx are the earliest known flying birds and only about the size of a modern day magpie. Living around 150 million years ago, Archaeopteryx had developed flying abilities that may have evolved from gliding out of trees or simply running along the ground. The first complete skeleton was discovered in Jurassic limestone in Germany in 1861 and is a very important fossil, almost certainly representing the transition between reptiles and birds. This missing link shares sharp teeth and a long bony tail with small theropod dinosaurs, and a wishbone and feathers with the birds.

Scientific name: Archaeopteryx

Rank: Genus

Common names:

  • ancient wing,
  • Urvogel

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Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.

Jurassic period Jurassic period
The Jurassic began after the mass extinction event that ended the Triassic. Life, however, was quick to recover from this blow and the Jurassic eventually became host to the most diverse range of organisms that Earth had yet seen.

Fossil types

Learn more about the other animals and plants that also form these fossils.

Exceptional preservation Exceptional preservation
Normally, only the hard parts of animals and plants - shell, bone, teeth and wood - are preserved as fossils. However, every now and then conditions permit the preservation of soft parts and create treasure houses of information for palaeontologists.


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Birds
  5. Archaeopterygiformes
  6. Archaeopterygidae
  7. Archaeopteryx

BBC News about Archaeopteryx