Monday, January 26, 2009

Giant Pterosaur Behavior

New theories have emerged about the behavior of giant pterosaurs.

A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins has concluded that most pterosaurs probably didn’t take off by running on their back legs and flapping, the way birds do. They used all four appendages pushing off the ground to propel them into flight. Link for the Science Daily story.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have argued that large pterosaurs probably didn’t feed while skimming their bill along the surface of the water. Link.

And finally, a group of scientists at the University of Portsmouth have concluded that large pterosaurs related to the Quetzalcoatlus probably spent a lot of time walking around as “specialized terrestrial stalkers” and may not have spent much of their time flying. Link.

Images are from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, link.
Thanks, Steve B!


Moai said...

Darren Naish, one of the authors of the paper in the last link, wrote a very interesting article on this subject in this blog: Thinking of these large pterosaurs as predominantly being ground-dwellers is a strange and very fascinating idea.

Erik Bongers said...

If only we could travel back in time to see them flying over alaska 3000 years ago...

JP said...

I am fascinated by how the perception of dinosaurs change over time. Some of my favorite beasts from the past have turned out to be quite different than the original I fell in love with as a child. Still, these new revelations are quite interesting and sometimes provide even more "coolness" to the creature in question.

The idea of a pterosaur running around on all fours makes my brain swim with new ideas.

Daroo said...

Great articles.

Will and Cirrus looks so sad upon hearing this news... They should be happy -- its exciting learning of new scientific theory (or rather hypothesis).

Somehow the four legged hop makes more sense visually. (Although it seems they'd hop straight up or even backwards).

But I also agree with John Paul: I miss the old upright T-Rex of Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen -- with its waggling tail and the neck muscles coming off the back of the skull, forming those great "S"-shapes.

Delwyn said...

In this bottom sketch the pterosaur resembles our pelicans in Qld.

Julia Lundman said...

this is fascinating stuff!

when i read the first article about how they used their arms and legs, folding up the top part of the wings as shown in the illustration, it reminded me of some bats I saw at the Nocturnal Creatures house at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, many years ago. Many of the bats were flying around and hanging on various ceiling surfaces, while some were crawling on the ground, using their wings and little feet, dragging their bodies along the way.

Maybe this is an evolutionary holdover from this era? Perhaps it was quite common for flying beasts at one time to use this technique or perhaps this was a transitionary behavior between reptile and bird.

Fun to think about, no doubt!

Dan Gurney said...

I found the Science Daily article to be interesting, well worth a visit.

Thanks for passing it along!

Tim said...

Im amazed that we actually live on the same planet as these beasts. Makes me wonder what the equivalent of Dinosaurs look like on other inhabited planets. Ill have to dig out my Barlowe books for sure!