The earliest-known bird may have soared ancient skies on four wings. Feathers covered the legs of Archaeopteryx, a creature that lived 150 million years ago and had wings like modern birds but teeth and claws like dinosaurs. A new report argues that Archaeopteryx used these leg feathers to improve its flight.
Scientists had assumed that the Archaeopteryx's leg feathers were for warmth and streamlining. But when Nick Longrich of the University of Calgary in Alberta reexamined a fossil of the creature, he found that its leg feathers resembled the ones that keep modern birds aloft. Thus, he argues in the summer (September) issue of