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"Pterosaur Origins Flap into Focus" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP26 Dec 2020 1:07 p.m. PST

"For more than 160 million years, pterosaurs soared over the earth. They were as much a part of the Age of Reptiles as dinosaurs were, and they were the first vertebrates to fly by flapping. But how did these leathery-winged creatures evolve to take to the air in the first place? Paleontologists have puzzled over this question for more than a century. Thanks to new fossil evidence from locales as far apart as New Mexico and Argentina, the forerunners of pterosaurs are finally coming into view.

Until now, precisely what these predecessors looked like was anyone's guess. "Pterosaurs appear in the fossil record as pterosaurs," with no consensus on what reptiles they evolved from, says Virginia Tech paleontologist Sterling Nesbitt. Part of the problem is that pterosaurs and their forerunners were very delicate. "Pterosaurs are extremely fragile," says paleontologist Natalia Jagielska of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who was not involved in the new research. And skeletal adaptations that were important for flight—such as ultralight hollow bones—also made pterosaurs and their precursors especially vulnerable to the forces involved in fossilization, which can destroy parts of the skeleton and flatten preserved bones. Only very particular, and relatively gentle, environmental circumstances allowed pterosaurs to become fossilized clearly enough to study…"
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