This early bird soared among dinosaurs

Object of the Month: 10/2013

What is it?: This model of Archaeopteryx has been recently restored. It was created at the Science Museum in 1934.

Science Museum of Minnesota

Age: 79 years
Made by:

Gustaf Sundstrom

Where was it collected:

This model was created for an SMM exhibit in 1934.

What is it made of?:

Feathers, wood, wax, cardboard

Meet Archaeopteryx, an ancient bird that flew through the skies of the late Jurassic forests of today’s Germany more than 150 million year ago. For a long time, Archaeopteryx was regarded as the oldest known bird because it had feathers. New discoveries of bird fossils, however, now show that it is one of the earliest birds of record.

This model of Archaeopteryx is a recent restoration of a model made in 1934 here at SMM for an exhibit on creatures of the palm-like treed forests of Bavaria, Germany, during the late Jurassic period. SMM volunteer Becky Huset did the restoration work on this model. How did this project compare to her usual paleontology preparation work?

Artist and bird: Becky Huset shares a moment in the lab with her restored Archaeopteryx model.
Artist and bird: Becky Huset shares a moment in the lab with her restored Archaeopteryx model.Courtesy SMM
"It was really fun, because it was quite different from what I usually do," says Becky. "I think the hardest part was giving myself permission to paint over the work that someone else had done in 1934. This object is an antique." It took her about two months, working two days a week, to give the model a complete 21st Century makeover.

That someone was Gustaf Sundstrom, an SMM paleontology preparer who created models of several Jurassic creatures native to Germany for a museum exhibit. Both then and with this current restoration, the preparers have some margin for creativity. All we know for sure about Archaeopteryx is what we see from its fossilized bone remains (see image below).

Are you feeling creative? Trying writing your own museum exhibit label for this model in the space below to share your thoughts with other museum visitors.

Archaeopteryx impression: This cast shows how Archaeopteryx impressions are often found in geological formations. This cast comes from a find in Germany.
Archaeopteryx impression: This cast shows how Archaeopteryx impressions are often found in geological formations. This cast comes from a find in Germany.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Here are some links to other sources of information about Archaeopteryx.

10 facts about Archaeopteryx, including analysis of its ability to actually fly. It was a glider.

How did Archaeopteryx lose its status as the "first" bird? Plus, see a skeletal drawing of the bird.

Get inside of Archaeoptreryx's brain, plus illustrations of the birds soaring in the forest.

The evolutionary connections between Archaeopteryx and dinosaurs.

Do you really dig dinosaurs? National Fossil Day is Saturday, Oct. 19, and SMM will be offering an array of special fossil programs between 1 and 4 p.m. that day.

Also, a new traveling exhibit – Ultimate Dinosaurs – will be coming to SMM in March 2014. Learn more about it here.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

yong washhoger's picture
yong washhoger says:

it looks like beef turkey fish

posted on Fri, 10/04/2013 - 3:05pm
Emmarie's picture
Emmarie says:

A reptile bird. scales like a reptile and feathers like a bird.

posted on Sat, 10/05/2013 - 4:27pm
serenei's picture
serenei says:

you are my spirit animal!

posted on Sat, 10/05/2013 - 5:18pm
janiyah hampton's picture
janiyah hampton says:

what dose that bird eat

posted on Fri, 10/11/2013 - 10:20am
Katherine mullen's picture
Katherine mullen says:

The bird eats smaller birds.

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 2:02pm
catbiz mi luver's picture
catbiz mi luver says:

i like this dino because it was ONE OF THE FIRST BIRDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 11:20am
JRW's picture
JRW says:

This is the best bird I have EVER SEEN!!!!!!!!!

posted on Sat, 10/19/2013 - 12:45pm
laurel watters's picture
laurel watters says:

did it really soar when dinosaurs were alive?

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 12:08pm
hannah tompson's picture
hannah tompson says:

It has a scary head.
It looks like a chicken.

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 1:06pm
hunter's picture
hunter says:

is that a real dinosaur

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 1:16pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

It's not a real dinosaur. What you see in the case is a model of a bird – archaeopteryx – the lived at the same time as dinosaurs.

posted on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 11:00am
Alexis Larson's picture
Alexis Larson says:

ITS SO PRETTY!!!!!!! its a RAINBOW!!

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 5:12pm
Allison's picture
Allison says:

It looks like an evil duck-turkey. Or a feathered pteradactyl.

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 5:42pm
rose tyler's picture
rose tyler says:

looks like a turkey and a peacock had a baby.

posted on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 6:46pm
Ryan Kreft's picture
Ryan Kreft says:

sam spam spam spam birds spam

posted on Wed, 10/16/2013 - 12:40pm
Sigre's picture
Sigre says:

Its so pretty !!!!!!!!!! its a rainbow

posted on Wed, 10/16/2013 - 1:53pm
Shnnon's picture
Shnnon says:

loks like cute chicken bird thing

posted on Thu, 10/17/2013 - 2:46pm
Person unit 23809's picture
Person unit 23809 says:

Person unit 23809 approves this bird. Person unit 23809 agrees that this bird would make a tasty snack. Person unit 23809 requests that these birds be sold at McDonalds in nugget form.

posted on Thu, 10/17/2013 - 3:58pm
carter is awesome's picture
carter is awesome says:

looks cute i mean deadly

posted on Thu, 10/17/2013 - 4:02pm
Qu's picture
Qu says:

it is a flying Thanksgiving turkey PERIOD!!!!!

posted on Thu, 10/17/2013 - 6:43pm
 Princess Jaguar's picture
Princess Jaguar says:

cool, i cant believe it flew with dinosaurs

posted on Fri, 10/18/2013 - 12:37pm
wyatt's picture
wyatt says:

Archaeopteryx eats meat not plants. It is a dinosaur.

posted on Fri, 10/18/2013 - 1:46pm
Gabe1tothetwo00's picture
Gabe1tothetwo00 says:

why did Archaeopteryx be the earliest bird?

posted on Sun, 10/20/2013 - 12:37pm
waldemat's picture
waldemat says:

I thiink that the bird is an early bird.

posted on Tue, 10/22/2013 - 2:26pm
You-know-who's picture
You-know-who says:

I see you have found my diary Harry. The Chamber has been opened.

posted on Wed, 10/23/2013 - 1:04pm
tori w's picture
tori w says:

I would say that baised off the little I read abot the creature I would say it fed on small creatures and with its talens was able to tare its meal apart with little struggle from its meal. I would say that it is not the first flying prehistoric creature and that evilution helped it along a bit. feathers would grow back if damaged and webbed wings could heal but slowly and so it would have had the upperhand on other flying ceatures with webbed wings. Very interesting cruture that resembles a more fearce bird than a chicken... an eagle perhaps.

posted on Sat, 10/26/2013 - 12:29pm
graham's picture
graham says:

it looks like a peacock

posted on Sat, 10/26/2013 - 1:34pm

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