According to a new study, massive dinosaurs with “ridiculously long necks” were able to soar in the sky due to vertebrae of spokes and carry large prey while they flew.
Pterosaurs, gigantic flying reptiles with impressive wingspans of up to 30 meters, lived 225 to 66 million years ago and had a massive neck.
They were over 18 feet tall, which is taller than a modern giraffe, with a neck that extended over 7 feet and a head that was over 5 feet long.
Researchers at the University of Portsmouth examined the fossils using CT scans and found that the vertebrae in the neck were arranged like the spokes of a bicycle wheel.
The giant flying reptiles owe their amazing powers to the strange, spoke-like anatomical phenomenon, according to study author Dave Martill, who said it was “unlike anything previously seen in an animal’s vertebra.”
According to a new study, massive dinosaurs with “ridiculously long necks” were able to soar in the sky due to vertebrae of spokes and carry large prey while they flew
PTEROSAURS DESIGNED TO EAT A WHITE RANGE OF FOOD
In another study, experts from the Universities of Birmingham and Leicester analyzed the wear and tear on the teeth of 17 species of pterosaurs.
They compared these patterns to those of modern animals – like crocodiles and monitor lizards – whose diet we know more about.
For example, the team found that Rhamphorhynchus – a long-tailed pterosaur from the Jurassic period – ate insects as adolescents before moving on to fishing in adulthood.
This suggests that the young were left behind by their parents to fend for themselves – a trait common in reptiles but not in birds.
The team also found major changes in the evolutionary history of the pterosaurs.
The legendary animals are the largest animals ever brought to heaven, and the spoke-like structure in their ultra-thin vertebrae increased the strength of the neck.
The neural tube, which forms the brain and the spine, was placed centrally and connected to the outer wall via spongy rod-shaped bones, so-called trabeculae.
Prof. Martill explained: “These are arranged radially like the spokes of a bicycle wheel – spirally along the length of the vertebra.
They even cross like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Evolution has shaped these creatures into fantastic, breathtakingly efficient flyers. ‘
Her jaws – twice the size of T Rex’s – were full of large sharp teeth, and so was she also had throat pouches similar to a pelican for catching fish.
The pterosaur’s slender neck, needed for weight loss, has puzzled experts for decades, as it had to support their bodies in the air and make them eat heavy prey.
First author Cariad Williams, a graduate student at Illinois University, said that in some species, the fifth vertebra from the head is as long as the animal’s body.
She said, “It makes a giraffe look normal.
“We wanted to know a little bit about how this incredibly long neck works, as it seems to have very little mobility between the individual vertebrae.”
The results published in iScience are based on an analysis of a pterosaur named Alanga saharica that was excavated in Morocco in 2010 and died 95 million years ago.
Such clear images were surprising even though the bones were petrified in 3D, according to Prof. Martill, who said they didn’t expect to learn anything about the inside.
‘We wanted a very detailed picture of the exterior. We could have done this by ordinary scanning of the surface, but had the option of sticking it in a CT scanner, “he said, adding,” it seemed grumpy to decline the offer. “
They tried to model the degree of movement between each vertebra to see how the neck might behave in life – before making the surprising discovery.
“It was remarkable that the internal structure was perfectly preserved. When we saw the intricate pattern of the radial trabeculae, we realized that something special was going on, ”explained Martill.
This picture of a pterosaur vortex shows the bicycle-like spoke arrangement
“When we looked closer, we could see that they were arranged in a helix that moved the vortex tube up and down and crossed like bicycle wheel spokes.”
Experiments showed that only 50 of the spoke-like trabeculae doubled the weight their neck could carry without kinking.
It sheds new light on how the legendary beasts can catch and carry heavy prey without breaking their necks.
Prof. Martill said, “It appears that this structure allayed many biomechanical concerns about how these creatures could carry massive heads – longer than five feet – on necks that were longer than today’s giraffe, while at the same time exercising the ability of the Maintained engine flight. “
A cross section of the pterosaur vertebra shows the spoke like elements that attach the bone to the outer walls
Pterosaurs are not related to birds – and are sometimes viewed as evolutionary dead ends, but the latest study shows they were “fantastically complex and sophisticated,” said Prof. Martill.
Their bones and skeletons were wonders of biology – extremely light, but strong and durable, making them one of the great success stories of evolution.
They first appeared in the Triassic fossil record 225 million years ago and flourished 160 million years ago before being wiped out with the dinosaurs 66 million years ago – most likely by an asteroid.
The researchers now plan to learn more about their flight skills and eating habits of the strange, massive animal.
The results were published in the journal iScience.
PTEROSAURS FLYED REPTILES THAT LIVE IN JURASSIC AND CRETATIC LIFE
Neither birds nor bats, pterosaurs were reptiles that ruled the sky in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Scientists have long debated where pterosaurs fit in the evolution tree.
The leading theory today is that pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and crocodiles are closely related and belong to a group known as archosaurs, but this is still unconfirmed.
Neither birds nor bats, pterosaurs were reptiles that ruled the sky in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (picture impression shown).
Pterosaurs evolved into dozens of species. Some were as big as an F-16 fighter jet, others as small as a sparrow.
They were the first animals after insects to develop powered flight – not just jumping or gliding, but flapping their wings to create lift and travel through the air.
Pterosaurs had hollow bones, large brains with well-developed optical lobes, and multiple ridges on their bones with flight muscles attached.