, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 27–32 | Cite as

The flight of Archaeopteryx

  • Sankar ChatterjeeEmail author
  • R. Jack Templin
Short Communication


The origin of avian flight is often equated with the phylogeny, ecology, and flying ability of the primitive Jurassic bird, Archaeopteryx. Debate persists about whether it was a terrestrial cursor or a tree dweller. Despite broad acceptance of its arboreal life style from anatomical, phylogenetic, and ecological evidence, a new version of the cursorial model was proposed recently asserting that a running Archaeopteryx could take off from the ground using thrust and sustain flight in the air. However, Archaeopteryx lacked both the powerful flight muscles and complex wing movements necessary for ground takeoff. Here we describe a flight simulation model, which suggests that for Archaeopteryx, takeoff from a perch would have been more efficient and cost-effective than from the ground. Archaeopteryx may have made short flights between trees, utilizing a novel method of phugoid gliding.


Flight Simulation Flight Performance Stream Tube Wing Span Modern Bird 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank G.E. Goslow, Jr., Larry Witmer, and two anonymous reviewers for their critical review of the manuscript; Cecilia Carter, Kyle McQuilkin, and Soumya Chatterjee for editorial assistance; and Kyle McQuilkin for illustrations. We thank Larry D. Martin for providing the three-dimensional cast of the London Archaeopteryx; Kyle McQuilkin for mounting and altering the specimen, and Bill Mueller for photography. The research was supported by Texas Tech University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum of Texas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.OttawaCanada

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