Giant flying reptiles preferred to walk the earth

May 28th, 2008 - 2:36 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 28 (IANS) Huge flying reptiles of ancient times weren’t exactly predators grabbing fish from seas, but were really more suited to life on the ground. A particular kind of pterosaur, the azhdarchids, existing 230 to 65 million years ago with dinosaurs, stalked animals on foot rather than through the air, according to a new study.

Azhdarchids were better adapted to walking than any of their first cousins because of their long limbs and skulls were suited for picking up small animals off the ground.

Named after the Uzbek word for “dragon”, azhdarchids were gigantic toothless pterosaurs. They included the largest of all pterosaurs, with wingspans exceeding 10 metres and the biggest ones were as tall as a giraffe.

Palaeontologists have long believed that pterosaurs lived like modern gulls or pelicans that grabbed fish from the water.

But a study of azhdarchid anatomy, footprints and the distribution of their fossils by Mark Witton and Darren Naish of the University of Portsmouth shows this prototype does not apply to all flying reptiles.

“Azhdarchids first became reasonably well known in the 1970s but how they lived has been the subject of much debate,” said Naish.

Originally described as vulture-like scavengers, they were later suggested to be mud-probers (sticking their long bills into the ground in search of prey), and later still said to make a living by flying over the water’s surface, grabbing fish.

But now we have a clearer picture of how they actually hunted prey.

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