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Colin Pennycuick & dinosaur flight
Colin Pennycuick has a paper on dinosaur flight in the
upcoming revised edition of Grzimek's Animal Life
Encyclopedia. And...I recommend Colin's updated Flight
for Windows, downloadable at
Although he believes pterosaurs and avians pre-date
theropods (for reasons not entirely clear), his data
on flight mechanics is fascinating material, providing
measurements of actual animals. He also has
discussions of Unzoology: the explication of taxa one
would think could have existed, or are alive now...but
which do not.
Some of his interpolations re: pterosaur flight, or
even dinosaur locomotion if one does some mental
replacement vocabulary reactions, are worth perusing.
Colin points, in his various papers, that large size
of an animal will cause the researcher, perhaps
unconsciously, to overemphasize aspects of anatomical
biomechanics (Colin in a private communication to me
terms this the TV factor). A wing span of a pterosaur
on Walking with Dinosaurs, e.g., may appear large --
but one is to remember their fingers were not straight
while flying, but bending under stress (looking
closely at segments now, one sees the FrameStore
animators were careful with with this; pterosaurs did
not fly, with outstretched arms, like Batman). Colin's
1988 paper on pterosaur flight could be updated with
new specimens, and shared on this forum.
A second aspect of inferring flight capabilities of
extinct taxa, even living taxa, is to have some idea
of environmental data, specifically air density and
gravity strength (I would also add temperature), and
it is possible that, during the Mesozoic, surface air
density was of a higher exponent.Computer simulations
could be developed to explore this, I would think.
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