Fossil of oldest bird to go on show in new Museum gallery
The fossil that confirmed Darwin’s theory of evolution, Archaeopteryx, will be displayed for the first time in a new gallery called Treasures, opening at the Natural History Museum in November 2012.
The fossil Archaeopteryx lithographica showsboth bird and reptile features and was discovered just two years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species.
The fossil became a key piece of evidence for the origin of birds and the confirmation of evolution and is known by some as the Mona Lisa of natural history.
It is not a replica or cast that is going on display, but the real fossil. The fossil is the official representative of the Archaeopteryx lithographica species, and is known as thetype. When scientists need to identify other similar animals they refer to the type specimen for comparison.
Archaeopteryx lithographica will be centre stage in the permanent Treasures gallery that will showcase the very best of the Museum’s world-renowned collection.
‘Each specimen tells its own unique story, but the role of Archaeopteryx in evolutionary science is profound,' says Sharon Ament, Museum Director of Public Engagement.
'As the type specimen it could be said to be the Natural History Museum’s equivalent of the Louvre’s Mona Lisa. Because of it’s history, it's scientific significance and the sheer beauty of its features captured in fine detail it has a real wow-factor.
'Treasures will bring together our most amazing specimens, highlighting not only their scientific value but also their historical, social and cultural worth. It will be a snapshot of the depth, variety and value of our collection.’
Archaeopteryx (meaning ancient wing) lived 147 million years ago during the late Jurassic Period. It had a bird-like feathered tail and wings along with a reptilian long bony tail, teeth and three claw-like fingers.
The discovery of this fossil in 1861 was a breakthrough, giving the first snapshot ofevolution in action between two major groups. It later became a key piece of evidence in demonstrating that birds are the descendents of dinosaurs.
Source: Natural History Museum