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Pterosaur Paleoworld Programs

>The pterosaur episode appealed to me more, providing the lay viewer
>with some insights to the nature of these primitive flyers. As the
>script pointed out, until the advent of the pterosaurs, only insects
>had developed wings to invade the air. (If this is incorrect, could
>someone cite earlier winged vertebrates?)

This is correct.  There are earlier gliding forms (in the Lepidosauromorpha
and at least one gliding archosauromorph), but pterosaurs are the first
vertebrates known to have possessed powered flight.

>There was an interesting
>discussion whether the pterosaurs were strong flyers or tended more
>to soaring, and whether when on land they crawled like bats or walked
>like birds.

There were some major goofs with this episode.  The computer graphics of
the Pteranodon used grossly out of date wing attachments, not Padian's
bird-like reconstruction nor Unwin's foot-to-foot version.  While
discussing the good preservation of pterosaurs in the Late Cretaceous
western North American Niobrara Chalk, they displayed fossils from the Late
Jurassic central European Solnhofen Lithographic Limestone.  Also, when
talking about the Solnhofen, they referred to it as being more than 200
million years old, instead of the proper 150 to 140 million years age.
Finally, following Bakker, they often referred to all pterosaurs as
"pterodactyls", despite the fact (mentioned once) that the latter name
properly refers to the advanced Pterodactyloidea, a subset of Pterosauria.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.                                   
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile                  Phone:      703-648-5280
U.S. Geological Survey                                FAX:      703-648-5420
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA  22092