Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists unravel feeding habits of flying reptiles

24.07.2007
Scientists at the University of Sheffield, collaborating with colleagues at the Universities of Portsmouth and Reading, have taken a step back in time and provided a new insight into the lifestyle of a prehistoric flying reptile.

Using new physical and mathematical modelling, Dr Stuart Humphries from the University of Sheffield, along with scientists from the Universities of Portsmouth and Reading, has shown that suggestions that extinct pterosaurs gathered their food by ‘skimming’ the surface of the ocean with their beaks are inaccurate.

Previous studies have suggested that some pterosaurs may have fed like modern-day ‘skimmers’, a rare group of shorebirds, belonging to the Rynchops group. These sea-birds fly along the surface of lakes and estuaries scooping up small fish and crustaceans with their submerged lower jaw. Inferred structural similarities between pterosaur and Rynchops jaws had previously been used to suggest that some pterosaur were anatomically suited for skimming.

However, new evidence provided by the researchers suggests that the fossilised jaws of suggested pterosaur skimmers mean that these creatures may have found it impossible to feed in this way.

... more about:
»Reptile »Rynchops »extinct »pterosaur

According to the research, the thicker jaws of pterosaurs would make it difficult for them to deflect water the way the extraordinarily slim bills of Rynchops do. By combining experiments using life-size models of pterosaur and skimmer jaws with hydrodynamic and aerodynamic modelling, the researchers demonstrated that skimming requires more energy than the giant reptilian fliers were likely able to supply.

The researchers established that pterosaurs weighing more than one kilogram would not have been able to skim at all. They also found that anatomical comparisons between the highly-specialised skull of Rynchops and those of postulated skimming pterosaurs suggest that even smaller forms were poorly adapted for skim-feeding. They believe that the pterosaurs they studied would have in fact fed using more conventional methods.

The size and body plan of these long-extinct animals can be reliably reconstructed from fossils, as can their time of existence on Earth. As a result of this evidence, scientists know that pterosaurs had membrane-covered wings like bats. Their extremely light, hollow skeletons were presumably filled with air, allowing even pterosaurs with wingspans in excess of 10 m to take to the skies, which they began to do as far back as 230 million years ago.

Discovering the ecological traits of these reptiles though is far more complicated. One way scientists currently gain an insight into ecological traits of extinct animals is by comparing fossilized morphological (shape and form) features to those of living animals.

However, as this new research shows, these records do not provide direct evidence of behaviour and ecology. Dr Humphries, from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: “Our results illustrate the pitfalls involved in using morphological data to study the ecology of extinct animals, including dinosaurs and pterodactyles.”

“While we acknowledge that these comparisons do offer clues to the ecological traits of extinct creatures, we hope that our research shows that biomechanical analysis is also needed to supplement such efforts in order to paint a more realistic portrait of the prehistoric landscape."

Lindsey Bird | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.plosbiology.org
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/pterosauria.html

Further reports about: Reptile Rynchops extinct pterosaur

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>