The First Bird

Material used: Polymer clay and metal.

The thrilling discovery in 1861 of an Archaeopteryx lithographica fossil (depicted in the sculpture) that was 150 million years old was a snapshot of the transition from dinosaurs to the modern bird. This fossil also had jaws with teeth, claws on the hands and a long, bony tail, all of which are absent in modern birds. In the late Cretaceous period, bird-like dinosaurs, primitive birds and early modern birds all co-existed. Bird dinosaurs developed feathers for courtship reasons but they became conscripted into the perilous business of flight. In turn, this selected for hollow bones that were very light and feather structures that could withstand the elements and mud and carnage without affecting their functionality. And with flight, came Icarus’ much envied freedom.