How pterosaurs started flying


This 18 August 2019 video saysabout itself:

How Pterosaurs Got Their Wings

When pterosaurs first took flight, you could say that it marked the beginning of the end for the winged reptiles. Because, strangely enough, the power of flight — and the changes that it led to — may have ultimately led to their downfall.

Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the excellent Scleromochlus illustration!

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Big pterosaur discovery in Canada


Cryodrakon boreas. Credit David Maas

Artist’s depiction of Cryodrakon boreas, featuring Canadian colours in honour of where the fossils were found. The true colours of the species aren’t actually known. Illustration: Davis Maas

This is artist David Maas’s depiction of Cryodrakon boreas, featuring Canadian colours in honour of where the fossils were found. The true colours of the species aren’t actually known.

From Queen Mary University of London, England:

New flying reptile species was one of largest ever flying animals

September 10, 2019

A newly identified species of pterosaur is among the largest ever flying animals, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London.

Cryodrakon boreas, from the Azhdarchid group of pterosaurs (often incorrectly called ‘pterodactyls‘), was a flying reptile with a wingspan of up to 10 metres which lived during the Cretaceous period around 77 million years ago.

Its remains were discovered 30 years ago in Alberta, Canada, but palaeontologists had assumed they belonged to an already known species of pterosaur discovered in Texas, USA, named Quetzalcoatlus.

The study, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, reveals it is actually a new species and the first pterosaur to be discovered in Canada.

Dr David Hone, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, said: “This is a cool discovery, we knew this animal was here but now we can show it is different to other azhdarchids and so it gets a name.”

Although the remains — consisting of a skeleton that has part of the wings, legs, neck and a rib — were originally assigned to Quetzalcoatlus, study of this and additional material uncovered over the years shows it is a different species in light of the growing understanding of Azhdarchid diversity.

The main skeleton is from a young animal with a wingspan of about 5 metres but one giant neck bone from another specimen suggests an adult animal would have a wingspan of around 10 metres.

This makes Cryodrakon boreas comparable in size to other giant azhdarchids including the Texan Quetzalcoatlus which could reach 10.5 m in wingspan and weighed around 250 kg.

Like other azhdarchids these animals were carnivorous and predominantly predated on small animals which would likely include lizards, mammals and even baby dinosaurs.

Dr Hone added: “It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct to Quetzalcoatlus as it means we have a better picture of the diversity and evolution of predatory pterosaurs in North America.”

Unlike most pterosaur groups, Azhdarchids are known primarily from terrestrial settings and, despite their likely capacity to cross oceanic distances in flight, they are broadly considered to be animals that were adapted for, and lived in, inland environments.

Despite their large size and a distribution across North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe, few azhdarchids are known from more than fragmentary remains. This makes Cryodrakon an important animal since it has very well preserved bones and includes multiple individuals of different sizes.

Filter-feeding Jurassic pterosaurs, new study


This 23 October 2019 video says about itself:

Pterosaurs Size Comparison

Pterosaurs, meaning “winged lizards” were flying reptiles of the extinct clade or order Pterosauria. Pterosaurs existed during most of the Mesozoic: from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous (228 to 66 million years ago). Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the ankles to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger.

From Uppsala University in Sweden:

Filter-feeding pterosaurs were the flamingos of the Late Jurassic

August 26, 2019

Modern flamingoes employ filter feeding and their feces are, as a result, rich in remains of microscopically-small aquatic prey. Very similar contents are described from more than 150 million-year-old pterosaur droppings in a recent paper in PeerJ. This represents the first direct evidence of filter-feeding in Late Jurassic pterosaurs and demonstrates that their diet and feeding environment were similar to those of modern flamingoes.

Pterosaurs were a diverse group of flying reptiles that roamed the skies during the age of dinosaurs. Skeletal fossils suggest that they, just like modern birds, adapted to diverse lifestyles and feeding habits. Direct evidence on diets such as gut contents, however, are rare and only known from a few pterosaur species.

Coprolites, that is fossil droppings, are surprisingly common fossils and they potentially hold valuable information on the diet of extinct animals. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to know which animal produced which dropping.

In a recent paper, researchers from Uppsala University and the Polish Academy of Sciences describe the contents of three coprolites collected from a surface with abundant pterosaur footprints in the Wierzbica Quarry in Poland. The coprolites’ size, shape and association to the tracks suggest that they were produced by pterosaurs, most probably belonging to a group called Ctenochasmatidae.

The fossil droppings were scanned using synchrotron microtomography, which works in a similar way to a CT-scanner in a hospital but with much stronger x-ray beams. This makes it possible to image the contents of fossils in three dimensions. The scans of the pterosaur coprolites revealed many microscopic food remains including foraminifera (small amoeboid protists with external shells), small shells of marine invertebrates and possible remains of polychaete worms.

“A reasonable explanation for how a pterosaur big enough to have produced the droppings ingested such small prey is through filter feeding,” says Martin Qvarnström, PhD student at Uppsala University and one of the authors of the article.

Some ctenochasmid pterosaurs are thought to have been filter feeders. Pterodaustro, which comes from the Cretaceous and is thus slightly younger than the Polish coprolites, possessed a sieving basket consisting of many long, thin teeth and was certainly a filter feeder. Older ctenochasmids did not possess such an obvious sieving basket, but some had elongated snouts with many slender teeth, also interpreted as adaptations for filter feeding. These pterosaurs were around at the time the droppings were made, and as the footprints from the site have also been attributed to ctenochasmids it is likely that such pterosaurs produced both the droppings and the footprints.

The modern Chilean flamingo, which is a filter feeder, can produce droppings full of foraminifera when feeding in coastal wetlands.

“The similar contents of the droppings of these flamingos and the pterosaur coprolites could be explained by similar feeding environments and mesh sizes of the filter-feeding apparatus. It appears therefore that the pterosaurs which produced the footprints and droppings found in Poland were indeed the flamingos of the Late Jurassic,” says Martin Qvarnström.

Azhdarchid pterosaurs, videos


This 19 August 2018 video says about itself:

Giants of the Ancient Skies – Azhdarchids (Part 1)

The Azhdarchid pterosaurs are truly one of the most impressive groups of animals that have ever graced this planet. These absolutely huge creatures were not only the largest pterosaurs, but some were also the largest flying animals of all time.

This 25 August 2019 video says about itself:

Were These Animals Too Big to Fly? – Azhdarchids (Part 2)

At long last it is here! Part 2! In this video we look at just how these huge animals were able to get into the ancient skies and stay there.

This is the third video in that series.

Baby pterosaurs could already fly


This October 2018 video says about itself:

Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to take to the skies. Learn about the anatomical features that made their flight possible, how large some of these creatures grew, and which species was named after a vampire legend.

From the University of Leicester in England:

Baby pterodactyls could fly from birth

Discovery shows extinct flying reptile had the remarkable ability to fly from birth

June 12, 2019

A breakthrough discovery has found that pterodactyls, extinct flying reptiles also known as pterosaurs,

Pterodactylus really is only one pterosaur species among many (the earliest one discovered).

had a remarkable ability — they could fly from birth. This discovery’s importance is highlighted by the fact that no other living vertebrates today, or in the history of life as we know it, have been able to replicate this. This revelation has a profound impact on our understanding of how pterodactyls lived, which is critical to understanding how the dinosaur world worked as a whole.

Previously, pterodactyls were thought to only be able to take to the air once they had grown to almost full size, just like birds or bats. This assumption was based on fossilised embryos of the creatures found in China that had poorly developed wings.

However, Dr David Unwin, a University of Leicester palaeobiologist who specialises in the study of pterodactyls and Dr Charles Deeming, a University of Lincoln zoologist who researches avian and reptilian reproduction, were able to disprove this hypothesis. They compared these embryos with data on prenatal growth in birds and crocodiles, finding that they were still at an early stage of development and a long way from hatching. The discovery of more advanced embryos in China and Argentina that died just before they hatched provided the evidence that pterodactyls had the ability to fly from birth. Dr David Unwin said: “Theoretically what pterosaurs did, growing and flying, is impossible, but they didn’t know this, so they did it anyway.”

Another fundamental difference between baby pterodactyls, also known as flaplings, and baby birds or bats, is that they had no parental care and had to feed and look after themselves from birth. Their ability to fly gave them a lifesaving survival mechanism which they used to evade carnivorous dinosaurs. This ability also proved to be one of their biggest killers, as the demanding and dangerous process of flight led to many of them dying at a very early age.

The research has also challenged the current view that pterodactyls behaved in a similar way to birds and bats and has provided possible answers to some key questions surrounding these animals. Since flaplings were able to both fly and grow from birth, this provides a possible explanation as to why they were able to reach enormous wingspans, far larger than any historic or current species of bird or bat. How they were able to carry out this process will require further research, but it is a question that wouldn’t have been posed without these recent developments in our understanding.

Dr Deeming added: “Our technique shows that pterosaurs were different from birds and bats and so comparative anatomy can reveal novel developmental modes in extinct species.”

Pterosaurs, new discovery


This 6 December 2018 video says about itself:

Devil of the Jurassic

Pterosaurs came in all sorts of shapes and sizes during their time on Earth, and one of the most important pterosaur discoveries was the uncovering of this species – Sordes pilosus.