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Wellnhoferia (Wikimedia Commons)


Wellnhoferia (after paleontologist Peter Wellnhofer); pronounced WELN-hoff-EH-ree-ah


Forests and lakes of western Europe

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (150 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and less than a pound



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; primitive feathers


About Wellnhoferia:

Archaeopteryx is one of the best-preserved dinosaurs (or birds, if you prefer) in the fossil record, with about a dozen near-complete specimens excavated from Germany's Solnhofen deposits, so it makes sense that paleontologists continue to pore over its remains in search of small deviations. Long story short, Wellnhoferia is the name assigned to one of these "outlying" Archaeopteryx fossils, distinguished from its brethren by its shorter tail and other, relatively obscure details of its anatomy. As you might expect, not everyone is convinced that Wellnhoferia merits its own genus, and many paleontologists continue to maintain that it was really a species of Archaeopteryx.

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