Azhdarchid Paleobiology, part III
May 28, 2008
How did we do this research?
– We looked at the environments in which azhdarchid fossils were found. Over 50% of azhdarchid fossils come from sediments that were laid down inland, suggesting that they were not a pterosaur group that often hung around near oceans and seas. Significantly, the only articulated azhdarchid fossils we have (articulated = the bones are preserved joined together as they were in life) come from inland sediments: as animal bodies fall apart rapidly after death, these articulated remains had to be buried quickly close to where the animal died to be preserved so well.
– We compared the anatomy of azhdarchid skulls and necks with those of modern birds. This showed that azhdarchids were strikingly different from mud-probers, and from animals that grab prey from the water’s surface whilst in flight.
– We assessed the flight and walking capability of the azhdarchid skeleton. Their flight apparatus was found to be similar to that of birds and bats that live inland, and their limb and foot structure was found to be among the best suited for walking of any pterosaur.
– We demonstrated that the limited range of motion possible in the azhdarchid neck was complemented by the mechanics of the limbs and long reach of the jaws. This bizarre stiff neck has previously been a problem in interpreting azhdarchid lifestyle, but in our terrestrial stalker model the long hindlimbs and skull work in unison to minimise required neck mobility and allow the animal to reach the ground with only slight bending of the neck or flexion of the forelimbs [see diagram above].
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