Ever since the first skeleton was found in 1861, the remains of the feathered dinosaur (and earliest known bird) Archaeopteryx have been highly prized for their potential to shed light on the origin of birds. There are about eight specimens presently known, many of which possess feather impressions, and scientists treat these rare specimens with great care. As paleontologist Dave Hone has
Fortunately, 21st century technology has allowed paleontologists to get a better look at delicate fossils without risking damage to them. This month one of the best-preserved Archaeopteryx fossils, known as the Thermopolis specimen, at left, was
This is the first time that this kind of technique has been applied to fossils, and paleontologists are unsure as to what they will find. If the test is a success and reveals parts of the fossil hitherto unknown, then expect a lot more delicate specimens to undergo similar analysis. For now, though, we’ll just have to wait for the paper to be published in a few years.