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RE: Pterosaur Takeoffs (Under-rated Bats)



To: dinosaur@ usc.edu
From: Ben Creisler bh480@scn.org
Re: Pterosaur Takeoffs (Under-rated Bats)

Speculation on pterosaur take-offs in the literature seems 
to be overlooking some recent research on species of bats 
that move about on the ground and can get into the air 
directly from a flat surface without climbing to some 
higher perch. Vampire bats can do this by leaping into the 
air. I have not read the entire paper, but a detailed 
abstract is viewable at 
http://www.biologist.com/JEB/200/23/jeb1149.html. Also, 
the false vampire bat (Vampyrum spectrum) of Central and 
South America hunts prey (rodents, insects) on the ground 
and can get airborne with a hop even though it is the 
largest bat in the New World, with a wingspan of over 70 
cm. I have seen footage of this feat on the Discovery 
Channel but couldn't track down a reference in the 
literature or find a website that goes into any detail.  
Any discussion of the take-off capabilities of  
quadrupedal pterosaurs should  consider how nimble bats 
can be despite having back legs that are much less 
developed than in pterosaurs. I would guess pterosaurs had 
little problem hopping into the air. Whether they could do 
it from water, of course, is a tricker question. Although 
some bats catch fish with their clawed feet, they can't 
get back in the air if they land in the water.  Some 
pterosaurs appear to have had webbing between their hand 
fingers (mentioned in a recent post from Darren Naish), 
which could have been used for paddling if the function 
was not purely aerodynamic.