Pterosaurs flew, who knew?

Well, almost everyone of course, but that hasn’t stopped some people claiming that they couldn’t. Or at least that some of the Cretaceous giants like Pteranodon and Quetzalcoatlus couldn’t. The main ‘offender’ of late was a paper I took to task for commenting on pterosaur flight while clearly written by people who didn’t know much about them and was not refereed by pterosaur workers either. If you are going to go out on a limb and talk about pterosaurs in a paper, it might be an idea to learn a bit about them first. If not, you run the risk of making some big errors and wasting other people’s time correcting something that shouldn’t need correcting.

In this case, Mark Witton and Mike Habib have gone out there and made the case for big pterosaurs being flight capable. They also talk about the problems of scaling the giant pterosaurs from rather fragmentary remains and of comparing birds to pterosaurs. So, if you want proof (if it really were needed) that pterosaurs were flying animals, then hop over to the Pterosaur.net blog where posts are coming, or PLoS One where the paper is freely available. Enjoy.

Oh, and the media have been all over this already, though primarily focusing on the ‘pterosaurs could vault?’ bit, which of course was published in 2008 and got plenty of coverage in 2009 thanks to this. Still, if you want the media side of things then you can see here, here, and here among others (warning: this may include pterosaurs being called dinosaurs. Again).

4 Responses to “Pterosaurs flew, who knew?”


  1. 1 Belzer 15/11/2010 at 11:33 pm

    I think this is plausible. I´m astonished about your asumption that the authors of this article are not competent enough.

    The arguments sounds logical. The arm sceletons are stronger than the leg sceletons. Therefore, if the Azhdarchoidea could actually fly, they should launch into the air with their arms and not with their legs. To catapult their bodies with their arms into the air, they must at first leap with their legs from the ground, land with their wrist on the ground, spring-stretch their arms and then flap their wings to fly away.

    This sounds possible and is conclusive with their sceletal anatomy. OK, it´s only a hypothesis. But don´t talk nonsense, as if palaeontology is an error free science. There a lots of flawed anatomical reconstructions in palaeontology. You should concede to the authors that they have explained for the first time a real solution to these problem.

    • 2 David Hone 16/11/2010 at 9:10 am

      I think you have got me mixed up. The only paper I’m criticising here is the Sato one which stated that pterosaurs could not fly by comparing them to albatrosses. My criticism of them is thata bunch of bird people are perhaps not the best to judge the flight capacity of pterosaurs, a group they had obviously not worked on before judging by the errors they made (as noted by Witton & Habib).

      The new paper I agree with wholeheartedly which I would hope would be obvious from the fact that I give links to other parts of this site where both Mark Witton and Mike Habib have written about their hypotheses.

      You should concede that you have completely misread what I have written. This should be a give away “In this case, Mark Witton and Mike Habib have gone out there and made the case for big pterosaurs being flight capable. “. My only sarcasm was the fact that it seems odd, as a pterosaur researcher, that we ever needed to prove that they could fly.

  2. 3 Mark Robinson 18/11/2010 at 7:06 am

    “…go out on a limb and talk about pterosaurs…” – is that as flight-adapted limb?🙂


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