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TROUBLE WITH 'TROUBLE'



Stephen Throop presents some observations on the evolution of flight, feathers
and all that, and demonstrates that he is, err, missing out on a few facts. I've
a feeling Mickey already caught them, hence his editorial comment heading
Stephen's message. Anyway..

> Still, in the dinosaur days, there were flying bugs that were built like
> modern species except that they were much bigger, perhaps ten times. 
> How could they possibly have flown?

Sorry Stephen, you're badly wrong. The only 'flying bugs that were built like
modern species except that they were much bigger' from the Mesozoic that I'm
aware of are those in the book _Jurassic Park_, and they're nonsense. You may
be thinking that some of the large Carboniferous arthropods, like the enormous
_Meganeura_ (not a dragonfly, though often said to be), were from the Mesozoic.
No doubt there were big insects in the Mesozoic, just as there are today, and
representatives of some taxa may have been bigger than modern forms for all I
know, but your statement is seriously wrong.

> In scale, flying dinosaurs present bigger problems.  One had a wingspan
> of 51 feet!  

This is a serious error. The largest flying dinosaur, the teratornithid
_Argentavis magnificens_ from the Pliocene of Argentina, had something like an
8 m wingspan, not the 15 m you suggest. You may be getting confused with the
largest *pterosaur*, the geographically widespread azhdarchid _Quetzalcoatlus_.
The earliest published estimates put its wingspan at 15 m, but it's now
generally accepted that 10-11 m or so is nearer the mark. _Arambourgiania_, an
azhdarchid from Jordan, and an unnamed form from Brazil may have been about the
same size or slightly bigger.

> Here's how Rob Meyerson, the distinguished orphan vertebrate, 

Apologies to Rob, but as some of you may note from recent posts, I do not
consider him to be distinguished...

"The game to which you refer is _football_. 'Soccer' is what some men do to
their wives!"

DARREN NAISH
dwn194@soton.ac.uk