About 20 million years older than China's spectacular feathered dinosaurs, Archaeopteryx lithographica is considered by many to be the first bird. Archaeopteryx is actually intermediate between modern birds and predatory dinosaurs like Deinonychus. In fact, one skeleton of Archaeopteryx that had poorly preserved feathers was originally described as a skeleton of a small bipedal dinosaur, Compsognathus. Seven specimens including this one held at the Natural History Museum have been found so far. Fine sediment, laid down in a tropical lagoon over time to form sandstone, preserved the outline of the feathers, which scientists believe developed from dinosaur scales.
THE GEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF CHINA