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re: Wilkinson's 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.
University of Melbourne
I understand from one of the higher ranking pterosaur workers that after
Wilkinson made his speech from the podium on the same subject (see above) at
the last SVP meeting he was academically thrashed by Chris Bennett on wing
shape, pteroid orientation, etc. I applaud Chris on this matter. I heard that
Matt took it well.
Once again, if someone can:
1) produce evidence that the pteroid fits in the cup of the preaxial carpal
when the current evidence shows this to be the nesting site of a sesamoid,
2) produce a phylogeny that produces such a weird connection when the current
evidence shows the preaxial carpal and the pteroid have side-by-side location
precedents in all taxa between pterosaurs and Cosesaurus and that these two
preaxial bones are migrated centralia,
3) show how this contraption works with tiny anurognathid pteroids as well as
giant needle-sharp nyctosaur pteroids,
4) produce evidence of a deep chord wing membrane when all the current evidence
indicates one stretched between elbow and wing finger,
5) produce a flying model that employs such a configuration, when all such
attempts have crash landed,
then all Bramwell & Whitfield > Wilkinson aerodynamic studies will merit study.
Until then, doggoneit, why bother?
Will someone please produce a report on the aerodynamics of the Zittel wing?