dinosaur museum

July 2019 Newletter

FROM THE EDUCATION DESK

Can you believe it is already JULY? We have not really seen summer yet, and I am eagerly awaiting.

Interesting facts for July: The first message sent by Morse Code’s dots and dashes across a long distance traveled from Washington D.C. to Baltimore in 1844…175 years ago…July 1830, the nursery rhyme “Mary had a Little Lamb” was first published in Sarah Josepha Hale’s book of children’s poems…In 1859 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle best known for creating the character of Sherlock Holmes was born…In 1932 Amelia Earhart became the first woman and the only person since Charles Lindbergh to fly solo across the Atlantic without stopping. The trip was completed in just under 15 hours.

FYI: Pterosaurs may have flown as soon as they hatched

Pterosaurs were the kings and queens of the sky during the time of the dinosaurs, but these winged-reptiles bear no relation to modern birds. According to a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B they had the ability to fly from the moment they were born. In 2017, a pterosaur colony from the species Hamipterus tianshanensis was found in Jinzhou, China. Hundreds of fossilized bones from both adults and juveniles were studied , along with 300 ancient eggs including 16 with embryos at various stages of development. Paleobiologists David Unwin of the University of Leicester and Charles Deeming of the University of Lincoln felt that there were enough samples to accurately chart out the development of pterosaur embryos. After analyzing egg size and shape, limb length, and other age markers, they found the embryos were at various stages of development , from freshly laid to close to hatching. They looked at data from juveniles of nine other pterosaur species as well as modern crocodiles and quails to understand the sequence in which their bones harden. They concluded that the little pterosaurs, known as flaplings, came out of their shells with the ability to fly. “The extraordinary thing about the embryos is they have a set of bones that in many ways match those of adults in terms of proportions,” Unwin told the New Scientist. “When they come out of the egg, they are like mini-adults.”

Image credit: Zhao Chuang

 

A strong piece of evidence that the pterosaurs were early fliers is the fact that their wing bone hardens very early. In most vertebrates, it is one of the last bones to ossify..the wing bone is like a humans middle finger and an important bone for flying. If you look at flying animals, their wing skeletons aren’t as developed. Bats are not as developed either. Pterosaurs are developed with the same aspect ratio of adults.

Kevin Padian, museum curator at the University of California, Berkeley argues the point in New Scientist that there is an important piece of the flight puzzle missing…muscles. He points out that even precocial birds can only support about 10% of their own body weight right out of the egg. “It is quite a stretch to assume that hatchling pterosaurs could support 100% of the body mass in the air, especially with no data on muscle mass of hatchlings,”
Unwin states “that it is the sheer difference of pterosaurs that is really fascinating about them. These were creatures that were really different than anything that is around today.”
Article Credit to: Jason Daley…smithsonian.com…June 13, 2019

Education Director
Geri LeBold

 

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