Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Large Pterosaurs Couldn't Fly :)

I swear this has to be a troll for Mark Whitton and Darren Naish. But...It's not.

Giant pterosaurs, colossal winged reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs, have long been considered the heaviest animals ever to take to the skies.

But new research suggests that the notion of giant pterosaurs soaring over Earth simply doesn't fly.

ased on the weights and body sizes of modern birds, a new study finds that animals heavier than 90 pounds (41 kilograms) with wingspans greater than 16.7 feet (5.1 meters) wouldn't be able to flap fast enough to stay aloft.

The conclusion casts serious doubt on the flying ability of large pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus, thought to be one of the largest airborne animals of all time.

The late-Cretaceous creature may have weighed up to 551 pounds (250 kilograms) and had up to a 34.1-foot (10.4-meter) wingspan—nearly as wide as a schoolbus is long.

"I think that the giant pterosaurs could not stay aloft in an environment similar to the present," said study leader Katsufumi Sato, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo's Ocean Research Institute.

Even if they could stay up, the bulky beasts would have had trouble getting off the ground in the first place, Sato said.

"Takeoff is the hardest task. I suppose they could not take off using only muscular efforts."

Oh! Oh! Oh! I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO waiting for the teeth gnashing, hair pulling response.


Parady said...

quite interesting , if it couldn't fly what did it do? walk like a dodo and get eaten by the apex land predator?

I have a hunch that today physics values had different value than those of 100 million years ago:)

Zachary Miller said...

VERY odd indeed, especially in light of the recent article showing how they got off the ground. On the other hand, azhdarchids were the most terrestrial pterosaurs, so perhaps flightlessness brought on their enormosity? I too await a response.

Darren Naish said...

Hi Will. The conclusions of this study are, obviously, nonsense. We covered it at Tet Zoo (though, in the comments, rather than in the body of an article). Go here and scroll through the comments...

Metalraptor said...

Pterosaurs weren't birds, simple as that. If I recall right, said study was done by someone who didn't understand paleobiology at all (but maybe this is a different study). Anyway, at the same time I saw a study that suggests that pterosaurs were able to leap into the air like vampire bats, thus able to fly. And of course did these people who conducted this study probably didn't take into account the fact that both large birds and pterosaurs had subcutaneous air sacs. Great, now we need PANDA (Pterosaurs Are Not Dinosaurian Aves).

Caleb said...

This is rather silly. First off, they were not born that size. At a younger age they could easily have taken flight. Who then is to say that they had to stop. The European Swift spends most of its life, including its time eating and sleeping, while flying. They only stop to mate. This easily also apply to large pterosaurs, such as Quetzalcoatlus. In modern flying animals there is a correlation in the larger the wingspan the easier it is to soar. This means that Quetzalcoatlus probably could spend very long amounts of time without having to flap its wings, soaring along looking for in waters below. When it came time for mating the Quetzalcoatlus would congregate on cliffs where they would mate and eventually create a nest. From these cliffs they would be able to drop off and gather enough speed to start flying. This is not scientific fact but my opinion on the matter.