Friday, September 09, 2005

Now THAT's a big bird

pterosaur gait interpreted from trackways

The BBC discusses pterosaurs, and recent evidence that they could have had wingspans of 18 meters. Actual fossils have been found of pterosaurs which should have had 14 meter wingspans; the larger figure is based on trackways. (The image, somewhat off topic, comes from this older article about pterosaur tracks, which match panel B-- quadriped gait-- much better than the hypothesized birdlike gait shown in panel A).

By contrast, the largest wingspan of a living bird is only 3.6 meters, for an abatross.

The pterosaurs seem to have been able to fly soon after birth ( as possibly were some ancestral birds ),which means that during this prodigious growth their aerodynamics had to be functional at all times. In contrast, modern birds are born flightless and only begin to fly at nearly adult size.

UPDATE: Orbis Quintus wants a real live thunderbird.

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