SCIENCE IN MIND
Solving a Jurassic-era feathered mystery
When Yale University paleontologist Nicholas Longrich began studying a Jurassic bird called Archaeopteryx, he noticed something unexpected. When he began doing a feather-by-feather reconstruction of its wings, working from a fossil in Germany, he found it didn’t look like a modern bird at all. Instead of the single layer of feathers that give modern birds their dextrous flight abilities, the fossil appeared to have layers of feathers stacked on top of each other, almost like two-ply tissues.