Navigation Links
The rise and rise of the flying reptiles
Date:7/6/2011

A new study by Katy Prentice, done as part of her undergraduate degree (MSci in Palaeontology and Evolution) at the University of Bristol, shows that the pterosaurs evolved in a most unusual way, becoming more and more specialised through their 160 million years on Earth. The work is published today in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

'Usually, when a new group of animals or plants evolves, they quickly try out all the options. When we did this study, we thought pterosaurs would be the same,' said Katy. 'Pterosaurs were the first flying animals they appeared on Earth 50 million years before Archaeopteryx, the first bird and they were good at what they did. But the amazing thing is that they didn't really begin to evolve until after the birds had appeared.'

Katy's study was done in conjunction with her supervisors, Dr Marcello Ruta and Professor Michael Benton. They looked at 50 different pterosaurs that ranged in size from a blackbird to the largest of all, Quetzalcoatlus, with a wingspan of 12 metres, four times the size of the largest flying bird today, the albatross. They tracked how all the pterosaur groups came and went through their history and recorded in detail their body shapes and adaptations.

The new work shows that pterosaurs remained conservative for 70 million years, and then started to experiment with all kinds of new modes of life. After birds emerged and became successful, the pterosaurs were not pushed to extinction, as had been suggested. It seems they responded to the new flyers by becoming larger and trying out new lifestyles. Many of the new lifestyle adaptations were seen in the pterosaurs skulls, as they adapted to feed on different food sources; some were seed-eaters, many ate fish, and later ones even lost their teeth. The rest of the body also showed a surprising amount of variation between different groups, when considering that the body forms have to retain many features to allow flight.

'Pterosaurs were at the height of their success about 125 million years ago, just as the birds became really diverse too,' said Dr Marcello Ruta. 'Our new numerical studies of all their physical features show they became three times as diverse in adaptations in the Early Cretaceous than they had been in the Jurassic, before Archaeopteryx and the birds appeared.'

Pterosaurs dwindled and disappeared 65 million years during the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs. In their day they had been a fair match for the birds, and the two groups divided up aerial ecospace between them, so avoiding conflict.

'We're delighted to see a student mastering some tough mathematical techniques, and coming up with such a clear-cut result,' said Professor Michael Benton. 'Palaeontologists have often speculated about the coming and going of different groups of animals through time, but the new study provides a set of objective measurements of the relative success and breadth of adaptation of pterosaurs through their long time on the Earth.'


'/>"/>

Contact: Hannah Johnson
hannah.johnson@bristol.ac.uk
44-117-928-8896
University of Bristol
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Birds flap run instead if flying over obstacles to save energy
2. Rare 89 million-year-old flying reptile fossil from Texas may be worlds oldest Pteranodon
3. New species of flying reptile identified on B.C. coast
4. Flying fish glide as well as birds
5. Rare 95 million-year-old flying reptile Aetodactylus halli is new pterosaur genus, species
6. Bat researchers no longer flying blind on echolocation
7. ESA satellites flying in formation
8. Researchers uncover worlds oldest fossil impression of a flying insect
9. Good guy or bad guy? Diagnosing stomach disease in pet reptiles
10. The pain of evolution: A big toothache for reptiles
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/15/2016)... DUBLIN , April 15, 2016 ... of the,  "Global Gait Biometrics Market 2016-2020,"  report ... http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160330/349511LOGO ) , ,The global gait ... CAGR of 13.98% during the period 2016-2020. ... movement angles, which can be used to compute ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... LegacyXChange, Inc. (OTC: LEGX ... Protect are pleased to announce our successful effort to ... of writing instruments, ensuring athletes signatures against counterfeiting and ... athletes on LegacyXChange will be assured of ongoing proof ... Bill Bollander , CEO states, "By inserting ...
(Date:3/18/2016)... LONDON , March 18, 2016 ... Established Suppliers of Biometrics, ICT, Manned & Unmanned Vehicles, Physical ... & security companies in the border security market and ... and Europe has led ... your companies improved success. --> defence & ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 29, 2016 , ... Proove Biosciences, Inc ., ... the launch of the Proove Health Foundation . The Foundation is a ... the use of personalized medicine for tackling the nation’s most-pressing healthcare epidemics. As ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 29, 2016 , ... Intelligent Implant Systems announced today ... via 510(k) for sale in the United States. These components expand the capabilities ... With one-level sales beginning in October of 2015, the company has seen significant ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... Boston, MA (PRWEB) , ... April 28, 2016 ... ... (EDT), Asymmetrex will deliver a talk on its first-in-class technologies for ... the 2016 Meeting on RNAiMicroRNA Biology to Reprogramming & CRISPR-based Genome ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... ... The Pittcon Organizing Committee is pleased to announce that Charles “Chuck” Gardner ... Committee since 1987. Since then, he has served in a number of key leadership ... both the program and exposition committees. In his professional career, Dr. Gardner is the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: