A Summary of Current Research on the Functional Morphology of Flight in Azhdarchid Pterosaurs

  • Amy Klein Idaho State University, USA
  • Curt W Anderson Idaho State University, USA

Abstract

Azhdarchid pterosaurs existed during the Mesozoic era and died out during the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. These amazingly large creatures have sparked a debate on whether they were capable of flying or simply gliding due to their massive size, anatomy, and morphology. Two theories that have been developed are that these creatures were terrestrial stalkers and that they are closer to pelicans in terms of feeding capability. More specifically, Naish and Witton suggest that these giants were capable of covering large distances by soaring and could forage on land by walking quadrupedally using their long necks to reach down and kill small animals, consume dead tissues and possibly fruits. Fossil evidence to support this theory includes tracks of the Azhdarchid’s showing a parasagittal gait, a winged planform, and specimens have been only found in continental depositional settings. Evidence also indicates that these creatures had membranes serving as wings, but it cannot be discerned with current knowledge whether membranes were used for gliding or for true flying.

Keywords: pterosaurs, evolution of flight, functional morphology

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Author Biographies

Amy Klein, Idaho State University, USA

Bachelors Degree (completed Spring 2017) Student in Department of Biological Sciences
Course: BIOL 3304, Comparative Vertebrate Functional Morphology and Physiology

Curt W Anderson, Idaho State University, USA

Professor of Physiology, Department of Biological Sciences

References

[1]   Darren; Naish, “Were azhdarchid pterosaurs really terrestrial stalkers? The evidence says yes, yes they (probably) were,” Blog Post, 15-Dec-2013. [Online Accessed: 13-Aug-2017]. View


[2]   M. P. Witton, D. Naish, H. Otsuka, D. Unwin, and L. Maas, “A Reappraisal of Azhdarchid Pterosaur Functional Morphology and Paleoecology,” PLoS One, vol. 3, no. 5, p. e2271, May 2008. Article


[3]   M. Witton and D. Naish, “Azhdarchid pterosaurs: water-trawling pelican mimics or ‘terrestrial stalkers’?,” Acta Palaeontol. Pol., vol 60, no 3, pp 651-660, 2015. Article


[4]   A. O. Averianov, “Reconstruction of the neck of Azhdarcho lancicollis and lifestyle of azhdarchids (Pterosauria, Azhdarchidae),” Paleontol. J., vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 203–209, Mar. 2013. Article


[5]   L. A. Nessov, “Giant flying reptiles of the family Azhdarchidae. I. Morphology, systematics,” Vestn. Leningr. Univ., vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 14–23, 1991.


[6]   Witton and Naish, “Figure 1,” 2013. [Online Accessed: 13-Aug-2017]. View


[7]   M. Habib, “Constraining the Air Giants: Limits on Size in Flying Animals as an Example of Constraint-Based Biomechanical Theories of Form,” Biol. Theory, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 245–252, Sep. 2013. Article

Published
2017-08-14
Section
Graduate Reviews
How to Cite
[1]
A. Klein and C. Anderson, “A Summary of Current Research on the Functional Morphology of Flight in Azhdarchid Pterosaurs”, Advanced Journal of Graduate Research, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 9-12, Aug. 2017.