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FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE . . . PTEROSAURS HAVE LIFT OFF!
--Hopkins researcher reports that ancient flying reptiles used four legs to
Pterosaurs have long suffered an identity crisis. Pop culture heedlessly -
and wrongly - lumps these extinct flying lizards in with dinosaurs. Even
paleontologists assumed that because the creatures flew, they were birdlike
in many ways, such as using only two legs to take flight.
Now comes what is believed to be first-time evidence that launching some 500
pounds of reptilian heft into flight required pterosaurs to use four limbs:
two were ultra-strong wings which, when folded and balanced on a knuckle,
served as front "legs" that helped the creature to walk - and leap.
Publishing in Zitteliana, Michael B. Habib, M.S., of the Center for
Functional Anatomy and Evolution at the Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine, reports his comparison of bone strength in the limbs of pterosaurs
to that of birds and concludes that pterosaurs had much stronger "arms" than
legs. The reverse is true of birds.
The research was funded by the Jurassic Foundation. Habib, of Johns
Hopkins, is the sole author of the paper.
A modern-day man and giraffe, drawn to scale, flank the extinct pterosaur
known as Hatzegotpteryx. Unlike birds, pterosaurs used four legs to launch
themselves into flight, according to new research. Illustration by Mark
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