Previously, paleontologists hypothesized that pterosaurs—who are often mistakenly thought of as “flying dinosaurs”—scooped fish straight from the water as they flew, much as do gulls. But researcher Darren Naish of the University of Portsmouth explains, “All the details of their anatomy, and the environment their fossils are found in, show that they made their living by walking around, reaching down to grab and pick up animals and other prey.”
"That’s all being done on the ground rather than in the air.”
Naish’s colleague Mark Witton adds, “We think the majority of their lives, when they’re feeding and reproducing, that’s all being done on the ground rather than in the air.” The two suggest that flight was simply a method of getting “from point A to point B.”
So why the shift in thinking? Naish and Witton analyzed the fossils of azhdarchids, a group of large, toothless pterosaurs. One of these, the Quetzalcoatlus, weighed some 550 pounds (250kg), stood as tall as a giraffe, and had a wingspan of more than 30 feet (10m)! In their analysis, the researchers discovered that more than half of the fossils had been found inland, and determined that the azhdarchids lacked the skeletal features of a “mud-prober” or “skim-feeder”.
For instance, azhdarchids had long hind limbs, stiff necks, and tiny feet that would not have held up well while skimming the water for food or standing in soft mud searching for food. Thus, the scientists conclude that azhdarchids must have stayed away from water and instead stalked landlubber dinosaurs—including perhaps velociraptors and infant T. rexes.
Although pterosaurs are very likely extinct today, it is fascinating to think of the size and capabilities of these beasts of the air—and the testimony they provide to their Creator, who presumably created the azhdarchids to land and eat plants.
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