“Head lends aircraft”: in the brain of the archaeopteryx

Cleared for Takeoff! The ugbirds have all the conditions for flying.

He is one of the most famous fossils, on him have already worked out several generations of scientists: at the Urbogel Archaeopteryx, who lived around 150 million years ago, has been involved since his discovery of lively discussions about what he was, more bird or more reptile, he was able to fly properly or only descended from tree and also the question of evolution of the bird.

Again and again there are new answers: after Z. B. Through fossil findings in China, the notes compressed that the bird from the dinosaurs descend (the heirs of the Saurier), now illuminates a current nature study the fossil supervogel flights.

Flight alone does not enjoy

Seven specimens of the genus Archaeopteryx and a spring were known so far. Last month, the remains of another copy came to this (see. New Scientist, Nr. 2454, 2. July 2004). All fossils come from the layers of the upper sowing Jura in the stone breaks at Eichstatt and Solnhofen. The so-called London copy (type: Archaeopteryx Lithographica) found in 1861 is one of the most important findings. Today it is to be admired at the British Museum of Natural History in London.

This Prachtstuck now has a team around the London Palaontologin Angela C. Milner took a closer look at the question of asking if the archaeopteryx could fly. Although this topic has already been taken up by numerous investigations, but primarily under the aspect of aerodynamics, focused on the structure of airfields and springs. But where the base is missing in the brain, the widest swing do not use anything. Milner and her colleagues have therefore looked at his head.

Virtual ramble through the brain

Computed tomographic images, a three-dimensional image of the brain was created based on the fossil at the University of Texas in Austin. So it succeeded in the organ, which has about the coarse of a small finger to see in and brainhable and above all the inner ear, the seat of the obedience and the sense of equilibrium. The reconstruction of just these parts is important for palaoneologists, because of this important random seizures can be gained in abilities of animals that can not be pulled out of the skeleton.

The London scientists now realized that the brain of the ugbogel was roughly rough as today’s bird. Also his organization was birdahlichlich: Typical characteristics are the magnifications of the regions that have to do with motor skills and the visual centers. Archaeopteryx was therefore visually oriented visually. An important hint also provided the archiannges of the inner ear, which brings more than those of birds as today’s reptiles. Speed and coordination of head and eye movements were therefore also important for the Fruhen flight artist.

The on-board computer in the brain

It means all that the archaeopteryx could fly? In an accompanying news-and-view article, Lawrence Witmer refers to a study by the Ohio University of Athens. Nature, BD. 423, 2003), which he carried out with colleagues to the pterosaurs. These airborne acids, who lived 230 to 65 million years ago, could fly ("Flying reptiles"), but they are not in the tribal history of the bird.

But even with them have been observed a specific organization of the brain and the archianngian of the inner ear, similar to the London research team at the Archaeopteryx. According to Witmer, these completely independent characteristics of each other are an important indication that there are some fundamental neuronal requirements for flying.

A step closer to the modern birds

Milner and her team can not say that the Archaeopteryx moved to flying, but he had the stuff. Begin contact, however, refer to the fact that other theropods have features on the brain, which are similar to those of birds. Nevertheless, the ugbird of your opinion is still a step closer to the modern birds.

Lawrence Witmer highlights the decisive result of the investigation: "For the first time we have reliable information about the brain and inner ear of the most primitive known bird and can thus document the neuronal transition to the birds." For him the "Icon status" of the famous fossil confirmed:

Once again, it turns out that in coarse and large with the archaeopteryx everything starts and ends.

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