The paleontological world was turned upside-down recently when some researchers determined that Archaeopteryx (literally meaning ancient wing in Greek) could not have supported its own weight in flapping flight!
Now that you have picked your jaws up off the floor…
Maybe nobody finds this as amazing as I do but this was always my favorite dinosaur. Back when I went through dinosaur phase, like all boys I know, but I always gravitated to this one.
Later I found out that as it was discovered two years after the publication of On the Origin of Species it became a central piece of evidence for the evolutionary theory as it was able to viewed as both a late dinosaur and an early bird crossover.
Anyways, Robert Nudds from the University of Manchester and Gareth Dyke from University College Dublin found that despite similarities in the layout of the feathers compared to modern bird (two asymmetrical vanes coming off a central rachis) the feathers were much thinner than what you would expect from a modern bird of a similar size. This means that if Archaeopteryx had tried flapping flight its feathers would have buckled under the pressure.
This is hardly a new idea but it is the final nail in the coffin. Previously it had been pointed out that Archaeopteryx lacked a bony (boney?) breastbone where the flight muscles attach in modern birds and that the shoulder joint was unable to allow a full ROM (Range of Motion for those playing at home) to get a big enough upstroke.
Instead of active flying these ancient bird-like dinosaurs could only glide and perhaps flap intermittently for a little extra thrust.
As much as it upsets me to think of these feathered dinosaurs being confined to the ground at lot more often than I would have imagined it also intrigues me. What prompts wings to evolve and become so sophisticated before the ability to fly? If there are any evolutionary biologists out there who can explain this to me I would love for you to leave your ideas in the comments.