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Re: Did pterosaurs feed by skimming?

I agree that Mark answered very well. Tossing in my extra two cents, I think there is a general tendency to underestimate the degree of hypertrophy involved in the hind limbs of raptorial birds (and thus to assume similar abilities in various other creatures inappropriately, especially pterosaurs). Falconiform and Strigiform birds pack a wallop; their hind limbs are much more robust than many realize and generate almost terrifying forces. This means that the mechanical loads across the entire limb are quite high, and the upshot is that there is a distinct strength signal in the hind limbs of raptorial birds. Even using the femora alone shows this signal; only some diving birds (such as loons) have higher mass-specific femoral bone strengths than raptorial birds.

By way of comparison, while pterosaur femora aren't necessarily weak (though some are), they do not have anything like the biomechanical adaptations seen in hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls.


--Mike H.

On Thursday, July 26, 2007, at 11:33 AM, Mark Witton wrote:

"Could pterosaurs in general or certain genera used their feet to hold
struggling animals?"

As Jim has already stated, this trick has been played up lots in films
(yer One Million Years B.C.s, Jurassic Park IIIs etc.) but doesn't
really have much basis in reality. The grasping ability of pterosaur
feet, to my knowledge, is still understudied, but a cursory glance at
their pedal morphology suggests their ability to grasp things,
raptor-style, was limited. Unlike raptorial birds, pterosaur phalanges
lack the developed flexor tubules we would expect in an animal with a
sturdy pedal grip, and their foot bones are generally slender anyway,
implying they weren't used in any apprehensive fashion...