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Re: Killer Pterosaurs?

Kind of a typhoid ptery!

(Running and ducking!)

Interspecific disease carriers are not unknown. There is a non-human reserve of Ebola hiding somewhere in nature, bird flu jumping to humans, AIDS coming from primates etc. Viral and bacterial pandemics often effect groups similar organisms and something that could effectively decimate only the dinosaurs is certainly plausible but would be virtually unprovable. Rarely is a disease so fatal that it completely wipes out the host species because the combination of needing an effective reserve of the pandemic agent to survive requires some of the reservoir to survive. There is no advantage to a disease organism to completely wipe out all of it's victims since it would then be wiped out too. The concept of a food chain problem is likely in such a situation. Diseased dying animals being eaten by scavengers who in turn also pass the disease around the ecosystem. Imagine a hemoragic virus being passed by body fluids from victim to opportunistic feeder if you will. I don't know why you picked peterosaurs in particular except they might get around (so to speak). I would think that to be widely effective, the pathogen would have to be spread by physical contact (as by feeding on) or by contamination of water sources and lastly by air borne vector transmission. This would make the common prey animals a more likely source of a widespread plague which would then go across the species barrier. Like the bird flu going to humans because of the close contact of the food source. I suppose it could go the other way but there would be no way for such an event to be preserved in the fossil record. Sounds like good science fiction to me. I remain firmly in the corner of thinking a combination of events led to the demise of dinosaurs as a group.
Frank Bliss
MS Biostratigraphy
Weston, Wyoming

PS, Regarding the funds to study Antonio, the check from England has not cleared the system as of today (Friday which makes 11 days since it was deposited). It probably has something to do with homeland security these days.

On Jul 8, 2005, at 8:55 PM, T. Michael Keesey wrote:

Birds were more common than pterosaurs in the Maastrichtian.

Well, okay, the sample size is not terribly large--but that's how it
seems so far.

On 7/8/05, Dinosaur World <dinoworld@msn.com> wrote:
Hi everyone.
I'm doing some advanced work for a video project and would like your
opinions on the following.

If I proposed a theory that Pterosaurs were a carrier of, and had immunity
to, a disease that was fatal to dinosaurs, and this disease played a partial
role in the extinction of dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous. Could you
please give me your opinions as to the plausibility of such an idea? And if
you find it implausible, could you please tell me why.

I realize that fossilized evidence of disease is rare, and so there may not
be much evidence for support or nonsupport of such a theory, but I was
hoping you could give me your personal opinions on this.


--Mike Keesey