A flamingo-like pterodaustro guinazui flying against an Early Cretaceous background in Argentina. A new study reveals that newly hatched baby pterosaurs are thought to have been able to fly right away.
Pterosaurus is a group of flying reptiles that lived during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods, i.e. between 228 and 66 million years ago. But, due to the scarcity of eggs and embryos pterosaurus fossilized, and difficulty distinguishing between newly hatched babies or young Pterosaurus, it is not clear whether pterosaurus the newly hatched can fly.
However, researchers from Universities of Portsmouth and Bristol, together with paleontologist Darren Naish, found that the baby’s humerus bone Pterosaurus stronger than many pterosaurus adults, indicating that they are strong enough to fly. The results of the study have been published in Scientific Reports.
In the study, the researchers modeled the flight abilities of infant pterosaurs using previously obtained wing measurements from four hatchling fossils and embryos from two species. pterosaurus, Pterodaustro guinazui and Sinopterus dongi. They also compared these wing sizes with those of adults of the same species and compared the strength of the humerus bone, which is part of the wing, of three baby pterosaurs with that of 22 adult pterosaurs.
Meanwhile, study co-author Dr Mark Witton of the University of Portsmouth said that although they had known about pterosaurs for more than two centuries, they had only fossilized embryos and baby pterosaurs since 2004.
“We are still trying to understand the early stages of life for these animals. One discussion focuses on whether baby pterosaurs could fly or, like most birds and bats, they had to grow a bit before they could fly,” he said. Sciencenews.org.
Aart Walen / National Geographic
Reconstruction of the skeleton of a flying reptile known as Dracula, a giant azhdarchoid pterosaur.
According to him, the baby pterosaur, with a wingspan of 25 centimeters and a body as wide as a palm, was a very strong and capable flier. Their bones are strong enough to support the body, flap and take off. “Their wings are also ideally shaped and powerful. But they will not fly exactly like their mother just because they are much smaller,” he explained.
Baby pterosaurs, he added, were likely slower, more agile fliers than adult pterosaurs, which had a wide range, but were less maneuverable. “Flight ability was greatly influenced by size and mass, and baby pterosaurs were hundreds of times smaller than their mothers,” he said.
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Small pterosaurs lived in the late Cretaceous with birds and large pterosaurs.
Dr Liz Martin-Silverstone from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said there was some debate about whether baby pterosaurs could fly, but this study is the first to be studied from a more biomechanical perspective. He found it very interesting, that although their wings may be small, they are born with a body that makes them strong enough to fly.
The researchers also described that infants Pterosaurus also have long and narrow wings. Their wings were shorter and larger than those of adult pterosaurs, with a larger wing area compared to their own body mass and size.
Fish-eating pterosaurs had wingspans of three to four meters.
With wing dimensions like that, making baby pterosaurs less efficient than adult pterosaurs in traveling long distances. However, it may make them more agile fliers, allowing them to suddenly change direction and speed.
Researchers speculate that the baby Pterosaur’s agile flight style may have allowed them to quickly escape predators. They were also better suited to chasing more agile prey and flying between dense vegetation than adult pterosaurs.
However, says Dr Witton, there is still much to think about with the ecology of these flying reptiles. “Does flight style affect habitat choice, and did this change as pterosaurs grew? There’s still a lot to learn from these animals, but we believe that whatever they did growing up, they were capable of flight from the moment they hatched,” he said.