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PLESIOSAUR FLIGHT REVISED?
Dan asked about Lingham-Soliar's most recent paper (Plesiosaur
locomotion: Is the four-wing problem real or merely an atheoretical
exercise? _N.Jb. Geol. Palaont.Abh._ 217: 45-87). Though I've read
popular versions of this paper's content, I haven't seen it, so I'll
withhold judgement so the following is not a critique: just some
While L-S may have a point about the different shapes of the fore- and
hindflippers, and about the fact that hydrofoils cannot function
simultaneously as rudders, it strikes me as a bit of step backwards to
argue that plesiosaurs only flew with one set of limbs. As we all know,
plesiosaurs have requisite musculature for a powerful downstroke, but
not for a powerful upstroke. Apparently - unlike turtles and penguins -
they can only generate propulsion during the downstroke, and the
beauty of the alternating downstroke theory (of Robinson, Riess and
Frey) is that there is continual propulsion from both sets of limbs.
Also, why would some plesiosaurs (i.e. most pliosaurs) have bigger
'steering' limbs than flying ones? And why is the hindlimb musculature
for downstroke about as powerful as that for the forelimb downstroke?
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