Posts Tagged 'wings'

On a wing and an ankle attachment

Proof, if it were needed, that the Pterosaur.net team do actually work on pterosaurs and not just blab endlessly about them comes from todays new paper featureing Ross Elgin, myself and Dino Frey. Once more, this is an odd time to talk about it since what has actually turned up are the uncorrected proofs, but it is out there and being read, so now is the time to talk about it. (You can download and read it here, and a very old post of mine here might be a good primer if you don’t know your pterosaur wings too well).

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Pterosaur wings 2: structure

Ok, so following on from part one now we have a ‘broad’ wing with an expanded tip – now to the nitty gritty. The pterosaur wing (as I have previously stressed) is not some sheet of tough leather, but an incredibly complex organ which in many ways is actually quite superior to the equivalent structure in bats (all this ‘pterosaurs as bad fliers’ junk can go too) and would have allowed them superb control over their wings during flight. The pterosaur wing is made up of at least 5 layers and probably more. It is hard to tell as obviously looking at this kind of microstrucutre is pretty difficult and we have to rely on comparing some very different fossils, preserved in very different ways for our information. In addition to an outer epidermis (top and bottom), there are three key features that we do know in quite good detail though and these are worth spending some time over. Some of these might be duplicated (i.e. there could be two muscle layers) and so five is a conservative figure as there could be more, or other layers might interact and be less clear-cut than we think.
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Pterosaur wings 1: shape

Flight is inherently really interesting and really complicated, especially for a flying animal where a single pair of wings have to produce all the necessary thrust *and* lift while also providing most of the steering. It is something humans have singularly failed to come even close to matching with machinery, yet pterosaurs were flying from at least 230 million years ago. For some reason people (and here I can include some researchers who should know far better) seem quite happy to assume that pterosaurs were that great in the air and just sort of glided about on some inferior proto-bat-wings. Oddly enough, I really don’t agree with that interpretation and I will hope to justify that a little here.
Continue reading ‘Pterosaur wings 1: shape’


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