The study suggests that small “rod-wrapped” pterosaurs to fly out of the water

The study suggests that small “rod-wrapped” pterosaurs to fly out of the water

Analysis of a small pterosaur fossil provided further evidence that Jurassic-era flying reptiles used their long arms to swing back and forth to “pole vault” through the air.

The research, recently published in the journal Scientific reportsevaluated a tiny pterosaur fossil from rocks dated to the late Jurassic from about 163 million years to 146 million years ago found in Germany.

Scientists studying pterosaur fossils since they were first discovered over two centuries ago have speculated that the physical characteristics of flying reptiles, including a “forward center of gravity,” prevented them from running like a bird. .

The researchers theorized a launch from water bodies for pterosaurs, similar to a method seen in modern water-feeding birds and bats.

However, direct physical evidence of such a mechanism has been elusive until now.

In the new study, scientists, including Michael Pittman of the Department of Earth Sciences and University College London, analyzed the fossil remains of a type of pterosaur called aurorazhdarchid unearthed from the Jurassic rocks of Germany with well-preserved soft tissues, including a wing membrane and webbed feet.

Their analysis suggests that soft tissues were primary propulsive contact surfaces necessary for launching the pterosaur into the water with a four-legged pole vault mechanism.

With previous studies indicating that pterosaurs were not strong swimmers, the scientists say the soft tissues likely helped take off from the water rather than being adaptations for swimming.

Once folded, the pterosaur’s wings may have helped the reptile break away from the surface of the water.

The results “reveal that quadrupedal water launch was theoretically feasible and that webbed feet had a significant impact on launch performance,” according to the researchers.

They could also identify key factors limiting water launch performance in all pterosaurs, including “available propulsive contact area, forelimb extension range, and forelimb extension power around the shoulder.”

Scientists believe the new findings also offer a comparative context for further investigations into the water launch potential and evolution of pterosaurs.

“While many small pterosaurs likely had enough contact area, range of motion and power to escape the surface of the water, it is quite plausible that more terrestrial taxa may not have been able to jump into the water, especially if the lack of pedal straps limited the propulsive contact area, ”they wrote in the study.

The new findings follow a collection of studies published last year, in which researchers evaluated the fossil of a giant pterosaur. Quetzalcoatlus which weighed over 250 kg and had a wingspan of nearly 12 meters.

Research from 2021 has suggested that the giant pterosaurs likely jumped, jumping at least 2.5m into the air, before taking off.

Scientists have called for further analysis of more specimens in the future to decode the evolution of flight across pterosaur species.

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