Jonathan Amos Science correspondent
8 March 2017
One of the true "rock stars" of the fossil world is going on tour for the first time.
London's Natural History Museum has sent its specimen of Archaeopteryx - the so-called "first bird" - to Japan.
It is travelling in Asia with nearly 300 other treasures from the South Kensington institution's collections.
The limestone slabs that contain the bones of this pivotal creature on the evolutionary line from dinosaurs to birds are considered priceless.
They are also very delicate. But museum officials are satisfied the iconic fossil will come to no harm.
"The scary thing is that it contains parts that are only one or two millimetres in depth, and so for me going to Tokyo with it is a bit challenging," concedes Lorraine Cornish, the head of conservation at the NHM.
"But we're doing some exciting touring exhibitions - putting ourselves out there to promote our collections. And if you're going to do an exhibition about the 'treasures of the Natural History Museum' then you kind of have to include this fossil because it really is a treasure."
Purchased in 1863 for £700 from Germany, where it was unearthed, the fossil was kept initially at the British Museum before being moved to the NHM when it opened in 1881. It has not been out of the building since - until now.
The fossil is referred to by experts simply as the "London Specimen".