University of Reading: Dinosaur Bird Gets Makeover As ‘Most Up-To-Date’ Model Unveiled At Museum

Visitors to a University of Reading museum will soon come face to face with possibly the most accurate recreation of a bird-like dinosaur species to date, after a life-size model was unveiled this week.

The bird-like Archaeopteryx is perhaps most recognisable from its appearance in Disney’s Fantasia – watching over the famous battle between Tyrannosaurus rex and Stegosaurus. However, its scaly feet seen in this and other popular depictions have been replaced with feathered versions in the new model unveiled at the Cole Museum of Zoology on Monday (8 November).

The updated features are based on the latest fossil evidence and analysis by its creator Bob Nicholls, and also include shaggier feathers, camouflage and striking yellow colouring around its eyes.

The model is now on display in the Cole Museum’s new home in the University’s new Health and Life Sciences building on Whiteknights campus. The Museum is set to reopen to the public before the end of the year.

“This is an Archaeopteryx as you’ve never seen it before” – Professor Amanda Callaghan, Cole Museum Curator, University of Reading

Professor Amanda Callaghan, Curator of the Cole Museum at the University of Reading, said: “Whether or not you know this winged beast from its appearances in well-known films, this is an Archaeopteryx as you’ve never seen it before.

“We are grateful to Bob – a world-class paleoartist – for the time and research that has gone into creating one of the most up-to-date models of this dinosaur species ever seen. We can’t wait to unleash it on our visitors.”

Archaeopteryx, meaning ‘ancient feather’, lived around 150 million years ago and was first discovered in Germany. It measured 50cm long – around the size of a raven – and could fly, run on the ground and even swim.

Although its general body shape is known from fossils, there continues to be heated debate over details like the length and colour of its feathers, and whether it had toes that allowed it to perch.

Research by the model’s creator has resulted in the new model sporting shaggier, black flight feathers that would have been durable and aided gliding and manoeuvrability. This includes feathers on the back of the legs and feet, similar to those seen in fossils of other bird-like dinosaurs.

The artist chose to add orange and yellow colouring around the snout and eyes, while the rest of the creature’s body is coloured brown and white to allow it to blend in with the shrubby desert islands and saltwater lagoons that dominated prehistoric Europe.

The unveiling this week was accompanied by a public lecture by Mr Nicholls about how Archaeopteryx lived and the analysis that informed his updated model.

Mr Nicholls is also the creator of the Cole Museum’s Ichthyostega, Kevin – a model of an extinct amphibian and one of the world’s earliest land-living invertebrates – and the Museum’s new Protoichthyosaur – an early Jurassic marine reptile.

Comments are closed.