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The birds vs. the pterosaurs
Let me gather my thoughts here...
I was watching some vultures the other day and it got me thinking about
pterosaurs. I began to wonder, "Whatever happened to them?" It seems to me
that whatever element killed off the larger dinosaurs at the end of the
cretaceous wouldn't have killed off some of the smaller pterosaurs that
survived right to the end of the cretaceous. It's like Bob Bakker says about
mass extinctions: It's always the larger animals that get hit. When the mass
extinction occurred in the late cretaceous, who died? Certainly not the
smaller dinousaurs. Not the turtles or the little mammals or the little
birds. And, probably not the small relative of Pterodactyl that has been
dated as living to the very end of (again) the cretaceous. And there must've
been others. Quetzocoatlus was one of the latest surviving pterosaurs, and
the largest ever. But once the big dinosaurs died, did Quetzocoatlus go,
Here's the thing: Assuming not all the pterosaurs died off (a theory of mine
based on the little I know of mass extinction patterns), where did they go?
Perhaps they went extinct later,long after the mass extinction occured,
because they were aced out by the birds. Perhaps the birds made the old
flying archosaurs obsolete.
Which brings me to this question: If the dinosaurs evolved into birds, why
did they do that when that ecological niche was already filled by the
pterosaurs? Because they could do the flying thing better? Maybe the birds
filled a niche that the pterosaurs couldn't?
I see evolution as a way for organisms not only to merely survive and become
"better" organisms, but also as a way to fill needed roles in specific
ecosystems. Maybe those are the same things.
So what the hell happened to the little pterosaurs? If they were being
"phased out" by the dominance of the birds, why didn't they fill another
niche? I mean, the dinosaurs did it. The dinosaurs have survived, in varying
roles, for hundreds of millions of years, and are still going. The pterosaurs
seemed nearly as versatile as the dinosaurs. Certainly, many of them were
actually more intelligent (comparably). (That is to say, comparing brain cases
and reconstructing the pterosaur brain and comparing that to reconstructions
of maniraptor or other late theropod brains usually reveals that pterosaurs
were smarter... Perhaps, like the corvids of today, the pterosaurs didn't
change much physically over the years, but instead "chose evolutionarily" to
"work on their brains", ie, they adapted mainly by getting smarter. ) By the
mid cretaceous, I believe the pterosaurs were the smartest thing on the
planet. You can correct me if I'm mistaken.
Again I say, *what the hell happened*? Could their be a pterosaurian
offshoot out there somewhere? Probably not. If the cretaceous extinction
didn't get (all of) them, and the birds didn't get them, than certainly the
age of the mammals and the Ice Age could've wiped whatever was representative
of them out.
I hope that I've made point/inquiry clear throughout my incessant ramblings.
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