Evidence from Claw Geometry Indicating Arboreal Habits of Archaeopteryx

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Science  05 Feb 1993:
Vol. 259, Issue 5096, pp. 790-793
DOI: 10.1126/science.259.5096.790


The Late Jurassic Archaeopteryx has been thought to have been a feathered predator adapted to running that represented a terrestrial stage in the evolution of true birds from coelurosaurian dinosaurs. Examination of claw geometry, however, shows that (i) modern ground- and tree-dwelling birds can be distinguished on the basis of claw curvature, in that greater claw arcs characterize tree-dwellers and trunk-climbers, and (ii) the claws of the pes (hind foot) and manus (front hand) of Archaeopteryx exhibit degrees of curvature typical of perching and trunk-climbing birds, respectively. On this basis, Archaeopteryx appears to have been a perching bird, not a cursorial predator.

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