The genus name given to a group of ancient birds. The first fossil was discovered in 1861 and provided Darwin and his converts with ammunition to support the theory of evolution. Here was a bird whose reptilian characters made it a transitional form between these two classes of vertebrates. So far, six specimens have been recovered from the Jurassic Solnhofen formation in southern Germany. The most perfect specimen, generally considered to be the most beautiful and important fossil in the world, was discovered in 1877 and is housed in the Berlin Humboldt Museum. The fossil is birdlike in having feathers, a wishbone, and a big toe that rotated backward, opposite the other toes, as an adaptation to gripping branches. Its reptilian characteristics include claws on three of the five fingers, a long flexible tail, and teeth. The limb bones lack the air sacs found in birds. See Chronology, 1868, Huxley.
Subjects: Genetics and Genomics.