A breakthrough discovery has discovered that pterodactyls, extinct flying reptiles, also known as pterosaurs, had a remarkable ability – they could fly from birth. The significance of this discovery is emphasized by the fact that no other living vertebrate animal today or in the history of life we know has been able to replicate this. This revelation has a profound impact on our understanding of how pterodactyls lived, which is crucial to understanding how the dinosaur world functioned as a whole.
Previously, pterodactyls thought only to be able to get to the air when they grew to almost full size, just like birds or bats. This assumption was based on fossil embryos from the creatures found in China that had poorly developed wings.
However, dr. David Unwin, a paleobiologist of the University of Leicester, specializing in studies of pterodactyls and Dr. Charles Deeming, a University of Lincoln zoologist examining avian and reptilian reproduction, could refute this hypothesis. They compared these embryos with data on prenatal growth in birds and crocodiles, and found that they were still at an early stage of development and far from hatching. The discovery of more advanced embryos in China and Argentina that died shortly before they were precipitated provided evidence that pterodactyls were able to fly from birth. Dr David Unwin said, "Theoretically what made the pterosaurs, growing and flying, impossible, but they didn't know it, so they did it anyway."
Another fundamental difference between babypterodactyls, also known as flaplings and baby birds or bats, is that they had no parental care and had to feed and take care of themselves from birth. Their ability to fly gave them a life-saving survival mechanism that they used to avoid carnivorous dinosaurs. This ability also proved to be one of their greatest killers, as the demanding and dangerous process of flight led many of them to die at a very early age.
The research has also challenged the current perception that pterodactyls behaved in a similar way to birds and bats and have given possible answers to some important questions about these animals. Because flaplings could fly and grow from birth, this gives a possible explanation as to why they could reach huge wing pans, considerably larger than any historical or current species of bird or bat. How they could implement this process will require further research, but it is an issue that would not have been posed without the latest developments in our understanding.
Dr. Deeming added: "Our technology shows that the pterosaurs differ from birds and bat and so comparative anatomy can reveal new developmental methods in extinct species."
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