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May-20-2010 22:37printcomments

Birds and Flying Dinosaurs

Continual reports of new dinosaur fossil discoveries appear in Argentine newspapers to this day.

(PATAGONIA, Argentina) - There is a restaurant on Calle San Martin in El Bolson named after Martin Shefflield.

Sheriff Martin Shefflield

This Texan gained fame by becoming the first sheriff of El Bolson, for shooting the heels off of ladies shoes, and for inducing the famous scientist Dr. Clemente Onelli to help finance a search for live dinosaurs.

Sheffield may have been nothing more than a self-serving pseudo-scientific adventurer, but his efforts have left a permanent mark on Patagonia.

His searches did uncover actual fossils and drew the attention of Onelli, Teddy Rosevelt and the international scientific community to northern Patagonia.

One of Sheffield’s favorite hunting grounds, Los Barreales in nearby Neuquen Province is now known as the ”Jurassic Park” of South America and for good reason.

Continual reports of new dinosaur fossil discoveries appear in Argentine newspapers to this day.

From the time of Darwin it was known that nearly the entire Southern Cone is covered in fossils and the study of the archeology and geology of this area is still a vital part of science and evolutionary theory today.

The example most outstanding is the Archaeopteryx, considered the link between dinosaurs and birds. The transition from dinosaurs to birds occurred at the end of the Jurassic period, 150 to 140 million years ago.

Dinosaurs have always remained fascinating, and celebrated, in Argentina

This transition species was small, had broad wings, very much in common with the dinosaurs, and less with modern birds, but its shape was something like that of a magpie.

Jaws with sharp teeth, feathers, three-fingered claws and various other features make it the most likely candidate for the title “first bird”.

However, the feathers lacked the central hollow shaft which gives feathers their strength, and scientists think that the early soft feathers did not enable the Archaeopteryx to fly, but to merely glide down out of trees.

There are at least 11 different fossils of these dinosaurs which include their primitive feathers.

The Archaeopteryx gained notice about the same time as Darwin published On the Origin of Species, and thus became part of the evidence for his theory of evolution.

Much of Darwin’s research was done during the voyage of discovery aboard the H.M. S. Beagle and his travels about Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Chile as documented in his journal of researches into the natural history and the geology of those areas as recounted in The Voyage of the Beagle, in 1832.


Special thanks to Jeff Kaye


Gail Parker is a writer and photographer who lives in Argentina. She and her lifetime mate and husband Eddie Zawaski, who also writes for, are former residents of Oregon, Gail has a great eye for memorable photos in this unique place called Patagonia. Her observations from this amazing wonderland of nature are a fun and welcome addition to our story flow.

Watch for Gail's wonderful coverage of the birds of Patagonia in future stories and photojournals here on

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gp May 21, 2010 5:51 am (Pacific time)

By the way, my pal Ors Kovacs the ornithologist don't cotton to this here theory about birds coming from dinos, he thinks birds are older than dinos.

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