Pterosaur discovery in Sahara

This video is called Largest flying creature ever – Pterosaurs Documentary.

From University College Dublin in Ireland:

New pterodactyl discovered in Sahara

26 May 2010 21:00 GMT

With the help of ancient fossils unearthed in the Sahara desert, scientists have identified a new type of pterosaur (giant flying reptile or pterodactyl) that existed about 95 million years ago. According to the findings published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE today (26 May 2010), the scientists consider the newly identified pterosaur to be the earliest example of its kind.

Unearthed in three separate pieces, the jaw bone has a total length of 344 mm (13.5 inches). Each piece is well preserved, uncrushed, and unlike most other pterosaur fossils, retains its original three dimension shape.

‘This pterosaur is distinguished from all others by its lance-shaped lower jaw which had no teeth and looked rather like the beak of a heron,’ says Nizar Ibrahim, a PhD research scholar from University College Dublin, who led the expedition and is the lead author on the scientific paper.

‘During the excavation, we also discovered a partial neck vertebra that probably belonged to the same animal, inferring a wing span of about six metres.’

The scientists have named the new pterosaur Alanqa saharica from the Arabic word ‘Al Anqa’ meaning Phoenix, a mythological flying creature that dies in a fire and is reborn from the ashes of that fire.

On the same expedition, and in the same region as where the fossils of Alanqa saharica were uncovered, the scientists also discovered fossils of two other previously identified types of pterosaur. This suggests that several types of pterosaurs lived alongside one another in the same region at the time, each probably specialising in a different ecological niche.

‘When this pterosaur was alive, the Sahara desert was a river bed basin lush with tropical plant and animal life,’ explains Ibrahim. ‘This means there were lots of opportunities for different pterosaurs to co-exist, and perhaps feeding on quite different kinds of prey.’

Pterosaur bones are seldom preserved in the fossil record because they were light and flimsy in order to be optimised for flight. Until now there have been few significant pterosaur fossil finds in Africa.

The United Kingdom Press Association also reports on this find, wrongly calling the pterosaur “dinosaur”.

Giant Pterosaurs Could Fly 10,000 Miles Nonstop: here.

A new study claims that the ancient winged reptiles known as pterosaurs used a “pole-vaulting” action to take to the air: here.

1 thought on “Pterosaur discovery in Sahara

  1. Terrifying pterosaurs were fragile in flight

    Wednesday, 24 November 2010

    Agence France-Presse

    PARIS: Pterosaurs, the largest creatures ever to take to the skies, were adept fliers in a balmy breeze but would have crashed in stormy weather, according to a study published this week.

    Evolutionary biologists have long puzzled over the aerodynamic abilities of the giant reptiles, which cohabited the planet with dinosaurs during the Mesozoic era 220 to 65 million years ago.

    A few scientists have even suggested that pterosaurs, also known as pterodactyls, probably couldn’t fly at all.

    Weighty giant tough to take off

    With a wingspan of up to 12 metres and weighing up to 200 kilos, just getting airborne was surely a challenge.

    But engineer-cum-palaeontologist Colin Palmer at the University of Bristol in Britain has shown in wind-tunnel experiments that the prehistoric beasts were in fact stunningly adapted for certain types of flight.

    Using curved sheets composed of epoxy resin and carbon fibre, Palmer constructed models of pterosaur wing sections based on fossil records.

    Slow flight equals soft landings

    Recent experiments on low-speed airfoils and sail boats provided clues on how the animal’s sail-like wings might have functioned. Then he tested the strength and aerodynamic properties of the mock appendages in a wind tunnel, much as a flight engineer might assess designs for an airplane wing.

    What he found was that the animals were best suited for flying smoothly over hillsides and coastlines on gentle thermals, or warm air currents.

    Slow flight and the variable geometry of their wings also enabled them to perform soft landings, reducing the risk of breaking their fragile bones.

    Danger in powerful gusts

    “Since the bones of the pterosaurs were thin-walled and thus highly susceptible to impact damage, the low-speed landing capability would have made an important contribution to avoiding injury,” Palmer said. The tests also showed, however, that powerful gusts would almost certainly have sent the creatures plummeting to Earth.

    “The tradeoff would have been an extreme vulnerability to strong and turbulent winds both in flight and on the ground, like that experienced by modern-day paragliders,” Palmer noted.

    The study was published in the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, a journal of Britain’s de-facto academy of science.


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