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Re: Pterosaur morphological evolution



Chaps, 

I actually flagged up the claims of flightless pterosaurs to the
authors: I was given an exclusive look at the paper a while back so I
could draw the sketches they wanted for Fig. 8. Looks like they modified
the text accordingly but not the figure caption.

I'll need to have another read of the final version, but I agree that
it looks like a good piece of work. I do question the claims of delayed
evolution in pterosaurs, though: it's almost certainly not a coincidence
that their sudden 'rapid' evolution engages at the same time that we
find the best pterosaur lagerstatte. There's a lot of fragmentary
material out there that doesn't quite fit into existing clades, and we
lack a good diversity of complete remains to compare them with. Bear in
mind that every new lagestatte we've opened has had at least one or two
new surprises: I think we've got a lot left to learn.

Plus, Darwinopterus and his (many, many) chums demonstrates that
pterosaurs were capable of modifying some parts of their anatomy without
touching others. How many of those isolated pterosaur humeri or cervical
vertebrae record animals with completely unknown skull morphology or
limb proportions? Boreopterids are a good example of this, too: an
isolated boreopterid humerus would look just like that of an
ornithocheirid, but they were clearly very different beasts. It seems to
me that we need to be careful that we don't assume too much about our
knowledge of pterosaur diversity.

Mark


--

Dr. Mark Witton
www.markwitton.com
Palaeobiology Research Group
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Portsmouth
Burnaby Building
Burnaby Road
Portsmouth
PO1 3QL

Tel: (44)2392 842418
E-mail: Mark.Witton@port.ac.uk

If pterosaurs are your thing, be sure to pop by:

- Pterosaur.Net: www.pterosaur.net
- The Pterosaur.Net blog: http://pterosaur-net.blogspot.com/
- My pterosaur artwork: www.flickr.com/photos/markwitton 


>>> Mike Taylor <mike@indexdata.com> 06/07/2011 19:09 >>>
On 6 July 2011 19:05, Habib, Michael <MHabib@chatham.edu> wrote:
> Looks to be a very interesting paper!  Pretty impressive for a
Masters Thesis project, too.

Yes, it's a model example of how a good Masters should turn out.

> My only disappointment was the caption of the press release labeling
Quetzalcoatlus as "probably flightless" - considering that Mark Witton
and I wrote an entire PLoS ONE manuscript debunking this idea (more or
less), it was a bit annoying.  But so it goes.

This image is in the paper itself, too -- and the caption again says
that Quetz was probably flightless.  Odd, since the only mention of
flightlessness in the body of the text says that no flightless
pterosaurs are known.

-- Mike.