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Flying giraffes



About Habib's new paper in Biol Theory. I continue to object to 
illustrations showing pterosaurs as enormous as giraffes, based only on some 
arm 
elements. Also we are probably getting the skull wrong. 

There has probably been a big mistake made -- moi included. We have been 
assuming what has without justification been called Q. sp. is a half sized 
version of Q. northropi (seriously inadequate holotype by the way). Simply 
scale the former up and you have Q. n. But there is big pterosaur skull 
material 
from the Javelina that is larger than that of Q. sp., and quite probably 
belongs to Q. n. That of course is the front portion of the skull photographed 
in the 1991 Wellnhofer book. The chances that three giant pterosaur taxa 
were flittering about the Javelina that late in the Cret is a stretch. There 
is no reason to presume that the smaller Javelina azhdarchid is even close to 
being the same genus as Q. n. The robust snout is similar to that of 
earlier members of the group (the possiblity it represents a nonazdarchid when 
there are no other such remains from the Maastrichtian is very dubious). 

It is probable that the robust snout is Q. n. (need to know what level of 
the Javelina these things come from, though, and the time span of the 
formation). For awhile I used that rostrum on my Q. n. illustrations until the 
half 
sized taxa skull lured me like the sirens onto the Rocks of the Chimerias 
(don't know if that version was published anywhere). But I did the posterior 
skull wrong because we did not have azdarchid posterior skulls to go on. I 
cannot do a rerevised version because I do not have the info needed to scale 
it to the Q. n. arm, partly because the cervicals that are said to go with 
the robust rostrum have never been published (that might not solve the cross 
scaling problem though). 

There is no way a 70-100 kg mass pterosaur will work for the colossal 
humerus and arm of Q. n. The size disparity is absurd. But we cannot even come 
close to presuming that we can just scale up the Q. sp. skull, neck, body and l
egs to Q. n. and assume we have a giraffe size beast with a super 
heron-stork head as long as a giraffe neck. Doing so probably misrepresents the 
beast 
in height and form. The body mass probably was in the 150-250 kg range.  

I was the first to point out that super pterosaurs were probably far 
heavier than thought. But these extreme restorations based on dubious 
extrapolations are probably misleading the public.  

Tend to agree with Habib that the biggest pterosaurs known or that evolved 
may not be the biggest possible living fliers by a considerable amount. But 
there probably is some limit. Hard to conceive of airliner sized biofliers. 

GSPaul


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