Scientists clarify origins of pterosaurs, the dinosaur era’s flying reptiles – science

Scientists might have solved one of paleontology’s enduring mysteries – the evolutionary origins of the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs that dominated the skies at the similar time that dinosaurs dominated the land.

Researchers mentioned on Wednesday a poorly understood Triassic Period reptile group known as lagerpetids, recognized from a couple of partial skeletons from the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Madagascar, seems to have been the evolutionary precursor to pterosaurs.

Lagerpetids, first showing about 237 million years in the past, have been typically small and should have been bipedal insect-eaters. They couldn’t fly. Pterosaurs grew to become Earth’s first flying vertebrates, with birds after which bats showing a lot later.

“The origin of pterosaurs has been one of the most enigmatic issues of paleontology since the first discovery of pterosaurs in the late 18th century,” mentioned paleontologist Martin Ezcurra of the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences in Buenos Aires, lead writer of the examine printed in the journal Nature.

The oldest-recognized pterosaurs seem in the fossil file about 220 million years in the past, with anatomies absolutely developed for flight together with wings fashioned by a membrane extending from the ankles to an exceptionally elongated fourth finger.

Studying beforehand found and newly unearthed fossils utilizing subtle scanning know-how and three-dimensional modeling, the researchers recognized not less than 33 skeletal traits suggesting an evolutionary hyperlink between lagerpetids and pterosaurs. These included the form of the inside ear, braincase and tooth, in addition to similarities in hand, leg, ankle and pelvic bones.

“We show that lagerpetids are the closest-known relatives to pterosaurs and bridge the anatomical gap between pterosaurs and other reptiles,” Ezcurra added.

Lagerpetids additionally seem like carefully associated to dinosaurs, the researchers mentioned. The oldest-recognized dinosaur dates to about 233 million years in the past. Pterosaurs disappeared 66 million years in the past in the asteroid collision that additionally doomed the dinosaurs.

While beginning comparatively small, pterosaurs finally achieved enormous dimensions, with wingspans reaching 35 ft (10.7 meters).

“We have been studying how birds transformed their bodies for flight for the last 50 years and most of this was driven by extraordinary fossils of dinosaurs and early birds,” Virginia Tech paleontologist and examine co-writer Sterling Nesbitt mentioned. “Pterosaurs have not experienced this renaissance of understanding yet because we didn’t have the fossils.”

(This story has been printed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content.)

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