Friday, 7 October 2011

The world's most expensive steak.

I do love ribeye steak...
I'm in a fortunate position where I am making myself hungry by talking about one of my favourite foods and have a piece waiting for me in the fridge (I should have taken it out of the fridge though, as they should be cooked at room temperature so that they cook evenly). But this blog is not actually about steak, it is about that famous fossil bird, Archaeopteryx.

We should all know about Archaeopteryx as it is one of the most iconic transitional fossils, bring a very dinosaur-like bird, or bird-like dinosaur (the confusion is deliberate). Discovered just two years after Darwin had published The Origin of Species and had lamented the lack of such forms, there are now 10-12 specimens worldwide (all from Solnhofen, Germany, though) and they are much coveted, so find one and you can become a millionaire.

Old Archaeopteryx has been in the middle of some interesting debates. Thomas Huxley recognised it as a link between dinosaurs and modern birds, but then this view got ignored and thrown out until the 60s and 70s when palaeontologists started looking at it again. It is now considered to be rather obvious. It was also once claimed to be fake, by physicists and astronomers who know nothing about fossils, but the palaeontologists came back and showed them up for their idiocy (they would have been ignored, but Sir Fred Hoyle was very well known and needed silencing). This year is the 150th anniversary of its discovery and recent studies have "knocked it off its perch" as the first verifiable bird, see here.

The price of steak.
But what I find really interesting involves the Berlin specimen, the second Archaeopteryx found. It was discovered in 1874 or 1875 and has been labelled Archaeopteryx siemensii (as opposed to A. lithographica). It was discovered by a farmer, Jakob Niemeyer, who sold it to an innkeeper so that he could purchase a cow. That's right, he sold one of the most important fossils in the world in order to buy a cow. I hope that cow produced the tastiest steaks on the planet. Despite my love of steak, I would not have relinquished the fossil so easily, unless it was T-bone...

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