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Temporal range: 150.8–148.5 Ma
Possible Middle Jurassic and Early Cretaceous records if Anchiornithids are a subfamily.
Berlin specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Clade: Saurischia
Clade: Theropoda
Clade: Paraves
Family: Archaeopterygidae
Huxley, 1871 (conserved name)
Type species
Archaeopteryx lithographica
Genera and possible subfamily[1]
  • Archaeornithidae Petronievics 1925
  • Archaeopteridae (sic) Shufeldt 1903
  • Archornithidae Carus 1875[2]
  • Anchiornithidae? Xu et al. 2016

Archaeopterygidae is a group of maniraptoran dinosaurs, known from the latest Jurassic and earliest Cretaceous of Europe. In most current classifications, it contains only the genera Archaeopteryx and Wellnhoferia. As its name suggests, Protarchaeopteryx was also once referred to this group, but most paleontologists now consider it an oviraptorosaur. Other referred genera, like Jurapteryx, Wellnhoferia, and "Proornis", are probably synonymous with Archaeopteryx (the former two) or do not belong into this group (the last). Jinfengopteryx was originally described as an archaeopterygid, though it was later shown to be a troodontid.[3][4][5] A few studies have recovered Anchiornis and Xiaotingia (usually considered part of a distinct clade, Anchiornithidae) to also be members of the Archaeopterygidae,[6] though most subsequent analyses have failed to arrive at the same result. Uncertainties still exist, however, and it may not be possible to confidently state whether archaeopterygids are more closely related to modern birds or to deinonychosaurs barring new and better specimens of relevant species.[7] Teeth attributable to archaeopterygids are known from the earliest Cretaceous (Berriasian) Cherves-de-Cognac locality and the Angeac-Charente bonebed of France.[8][9]


The family Archaeopterygidae is the only family in the order Archaeopterygiformes, which was coined by Max Fürbringer in 1888 to contain Archaeopterygidae and genus Archaeopteryx.[10] A formal phylogenetic definition for Archaeopterygidae was given by Xu and colleagues in 2011: the clade comprising all animals closer to Archaeopteryx than to the house sparrow or Dromaeosaurus.[6]

The family Dromaeosauridae, traditionally considered to be non-avian dinosaurs, have been included in this group by at least one author, although the group was paraphyletic in that classification, with Dromaeosaurus and Velociraptor (including Deinonychus and Saurornitholestes) being more closely related to modern birds than Archaeopteryx was.[11] Discoveries of a number of primitive forms have muddied the relationships of early birds, making it possible that Velociraptor and Deinonychus could be considered birds as they might have evolved from flying ancestors. Palaeoartist Gregory S. Paul placed dromaeosaurids in Archaeopterygidae for these reasons, though the eventual cladistic definition of Archaeopterygidae explicitly excluded them.[11]

The family Anchiornithidae has had some of the members or the entirety of the group placed as archaeopterygids in various systematic studies.[6][12][1] The cladogram below shows the results of the phylogenetic analysis by Cau (2020).[1]

Archaeopteryx lithographica

Archaeopteryx albersdoerferi









  1. ^ a b c Cau, Andrea (2020-02-25). "The body plan of Halszkaraptor escuilliei (Dinosauria, Theropoda) is not a transitional form along the evolution of dromaeosaurid hypercarnivory". PeerJ. 8: e8672. doi:10.7717/peerj.8672. ISSN 2167-8359. PMC 7047864. PMID 32140312.
  2. ^ Brodkob, Pierce (1963). "Catalogue of fossil birds 1- Archaeopterygiformes through Ardeiformes". Biological Sciences, Bulletin of the Florida State Museum. 7 (4): 180–293. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  3. ^ Ji, Q.; Ji, S.; Lu, J.; You, H.; Chen, W.; Liu, Y. & Liu, Y. (2005). "First avialan bird from China (Jinfengopteryx elegans gen. et sp. nov.)". Geological Bulletin of China. 24 (3): 197–205.
  4. ^ Chiappe, L.M. (2007) Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. Sydney: UNSW Press. ISBN 0471247235.
  5. ^ Turner, Alan H.; Pol, Diego; Clarke, Julia A.; Erickson, Gregory M.; Norell, Mark (2007). "A basal dromaeosaurid and size evolution preceding avian flight". Science. 317 (5843): 1378–1381. Bibcode:2007Sci...317.1378T. doi:10.1126/science.1144066. PMID 17823350.
  6. ^ a b c Xing Xu; Hailu You; Kai Du & Fenglu Han (28 July 2011). "An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae" (PDF). Nature. 475 (7357): 465–470. doi:10.1038/nature10288. PMID 21796204. S2CID 205225790. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  7. ^ Lee, M. S. Y. & Worthy, T. H. (2011). "Likelihood reinstates Archaeopteryx as a primitive bird". Biology Letters. 8 (2): 299–303. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0884. PMC 3297401. PMID 22031726.
  8. ^ Louchart, Antoine; Pouech, Joane (May 2017). "A tooth of Archaeopterygidae (Aves) from the Lower Cretaceous of France extends the spatial and temporal occurrence of the earliest birds". Cretaceous Research. 73: 40–46. Bibcode:2017CrRes..73...40L. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2017.01.004.
  9. ^ Ronan Allain, Romain Vullo, Lee Rozada, Jérémy Anquetin, Renaud Bourgeais, et al.. Vertebrate paleobiodiversity of the Early Cretaceous (Berriasian) Angeac-Charente Lagerstätte (southwestern France): implications for continental faunal turnover at the J/K boundary. Geodiversitas, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle Paris, In press. ffhal-03264773f
  10. ^ Fürbringer, M. (1888) Untersuchungen zur Morphologie und Systematik der Voegel, Amsterdam, van Halkema, p. 1751
  11. ^ a b Paul, G.S. (1988). Predatory Dinosaurs of the World. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  12. ^ Hartman, Scott; Mortimer, Mickey; Wahl, William R.; Lomax, Dean R.; Lippincott, Jessica; Lovelace, David M. (2019). "A new paravian dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of North America supports a late acquisition of avian flight". PeerJ. 7: e7247. doi:10.7717/peerj.7247. PMC 6626525. PMID 31333906.

Catalogue of fossil birds