His serendipitous master stroke befell Ostrom in a Dutch museum where he found a set of bony fingers on a limestone slab out of those famous Bavarian quarries. (dinosaur factory)The slab supposedly contained yet another fragmentary pterodactyl skeleton, not an important find because dozens of complete specimens were available from the same localities. But those long bony fingers, tipped by needle-sharp claws, had been misidentified. They were not pterodactyl at all but the rarest of the rare, the most sought after of all Bavarian fossils, an Archaeopteryx. After fully a century of quarrying, only those two early skeletons of 1861 and 1867 were known. John Ostrom’s was the third.
Alternating images flashed before his mind’s eye as he scrutinized the Dutch specimen. He recognized the bony hands with their three long, clawed fingers as belonging to Archaeopteryx. (animatronic dinosaur rides)But he also recognized in that hand a miniature version of Deinonychus’s. Archaeopteryx had been pigeon-sized, its hand four inches long; Deinonychus had been as heavy as an average man and could stretch its hand a full nine inches. Yet the small bird hand and the dinosaur hand were virtually identical in shape. Each finger and wrist bone had been molded to the same peculiar biomechanical pattern, an adaptive plan totally unknown anywhere in the animal kingdom outside the Dinosauria. There was an important message on this Dutch slab, and Ostrom read it correctly. (dinosaur costume)Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus had been very closely related. And birds were indeed the direct descendants of dinosaurs.