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].

Our paper is freely available here. If you haven’t already done so, please see part I and part II for more supplementary info.

Further information can be found at Mark Witton’s flickr site and Tetrapod Zoology.

Ref – –

Witton, M. P. & Naish, D. 2008. A reappraisal of azhdarchid pterosaur functional morphology and paleoecology. PLoS ONE 3(5): e2271 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002271


5 Responses to “Azhdarchid Paleobiology, part III”

  1. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    Hmmm. A good omen for the new blog, Mark and Darren. I got the first comment at SV-POW! too.

    My contribution to science!

    Cool stuff, guys.

  2. Darren Naish Says:

    Thanks Mike, great to have you as a regular here too 🙂 Whether we’ll be following the three existing posts with any others is doubtful however – but you never know…

  3. Alexander Lowe Says:

    Absolutely bloody fascinating!

  4. Amin Khaleghparast Says:

    Dear Mark Witton and Darren Naish
    Thank you for your answers.
    My name is Amin Khaleghparast.I am an Iranian student of Genetic(master of Science) From Islamic Azad University(science and research Unit).
    Thank you for your beautiful drawings about prehistoric Reptiles.I like your drawings very much.

    1.Would you send my Email your drawing about “Pteranodon in the sky” with very large Dimensions(for Example: 2466×4088)?
    2.Would you send my Email your drawing about “Dimorphodon in the sky” with very large Dimensions(for Example: 2466×4088)?
    Best Regards,Amin(from IRAN)

  5. Jaime A. Headden Says:

    Mark, I have a concern. Did you position the arms so that the head could reach the ground? My understanding is that with the humeri held outward, the forelimb is rotated so that the elbow is flexed dorsally and laterally, and the radius and ulna are vertical. This should make the shoulder much higher, and the spine slope more. You seem to have flexed the elbow more shallowly and the humerus is rotated anteriorly around the long axis to place the shoulder lower, and that seems speculative.

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