Azhdarchid Paleobiology, part I
May 16, 2008
Welcome to Azhdarchid Paleobiology, a blog produced to accompany the PLoS ONE paper ‘A reappraisal of azhdarchid pterosaur functional morphology and paleoecology’ by Mark P. Witton and Darren Naish (both of University of Portsmouth): this paper is freely available online here. All text and diagrams provided here should be regarded as freely available for use, but images must be credited to Mark Witton/University of Portsmouth, and cannot be used commercially.
Pterosaurs are flying reptiles that lived during the age of the dinosaurs (between about 230 and 65 million years ago). Although often called dinosaurs, they are not part of this group and represent a distinct lineage of reptiles that evolved flight independently of birds and bats. There are around 100 species of pterosaurs currently known, and one group – including about nine species – is particularly controversial. These are the azhdarchids, a group named after the Uzbek word for ‘dragon’ [image above shows a giant azhdarchid in flight].
With massive, elongate heads, very long, stiff necks, long hindlimbs, and often gigantic size, azhdarchids are more than deserving of their ‘dragon’ title. Azhdarchids include the largest of all pterosaurs: some had wingspans exceeding 10 m and, when standing, had shoulder heights of over 2.5 m (see image below, of a 1.75 m tall human next to the biggest azhdarchid – and pterosaur – yet known, the enormous Hatzegopteryx thambema from western Romania. This pterosaur lived during the Late Cretaceous and was named and described in 2003 by Eric Buffetaut and colleagues. It is known from an incomplete skull and some arm and leg bones).
Please see part II for more…
Our paper is freely available here.
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