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Pterosaur respiration article and cover art

Ben Creisler

An article first published online in 2013, now officially out as cover
story for December Anatomical Record:

Nicholas R. Geist, Willem J. Hillenius, Eberhard Frey, Terry D. Jones
and Ross A. Elgin (2014)
Breathing in a box: Constraints on lung ventilation in giant pterosaurs.
Anatomical Record 297(12): 2233–2253
DOI: 10.1002/ar.22839

Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to achieve active flight, with
some derived forms reaching enormous size. Accumulating fossil
evidence confirms earlier indications that selection for large size in
these flying forms resulted in a light, yet strong skeleton
characterized by fusion of many bones of the trunk. However, this
process also added mechanical constraints on the mobility of the
thorax of large pterosaurs that likely limited the options available
for lung ventilation. We present an alternative hypothesis to recent
suggestions of an avian-like mechanism of costosternal pumping as the
primary means of aspiration. An analysis of the joints among the
vertebrae, ribs, sternum, and pectoral girdle of large pterosaurs
indicates limited mobility of the ribcage and sternum. Comparisons
with modes of lung ventilation in extant amniotes suggests that the
stiffened thorax, coupled with mobile gastralia and prepubic bones,
may be most consistent with an extracostal mechanism for lung
ventilation in large pterodactyloids, perhaps similar to a
crocodile-like visceral displacement system.


DOI: 10.1002/ar.22781

Cover by Mark Witton of giant pterosaur in festive red and green
landscape for December issue can be downloaded as a pdf


[Might make a nice season's greetings card for the prehistorically inclined...]