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New pterosaur paper



I don't THINK this has been mentioned on DML yet...

Matthew T. Wilkinson, "Sailing the skies: the improbable aeronautical success of the pterosaurs," Journal of Experimental Biology v. 210 (2007), pp. 1663-1671. (The cover photo of the issue-- linked to a different article-- is a very cute fruitbat surrounded by yellow flowers.)

I skimmed it very quickly. Reports on a variety of research, including aerodynamic theory and wind-tunnel experiments with models of pterosaur wings. The simplest model-- a flexible sail on a foelimb/finger mast-- would be quite astonishingly inefficient, aerodynamicswise. Author plumps for a more complex model, in which the outer, narrowing, part of the span is stiffened by actinofibils and the inboard section of the wing (which he assumes extends down to attach fairly far down the hindlimb) is more flexible: it could be controlled (tension increases/decreased as needed?) by hindlimb movements, and its aerodynamics greatly aided by the effects of a propatagium (supported by a mobile pteroid bone) that could be varied in angle and area. ... It's billed as a review, so covering a lot or research and maybe integrating it.

Allen Hazen
Philosophy Department
University of Melbourne