The pterosaur was one of the first vertebrates to learn to fly, and is often regarded as the cool cousin of the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex.
Now, scientists have discovered the 10 billion-year secret to the success of flying pterosaurs: The neck is longer than a giraffe.
Paleontologists at the University of Portsmouth were puzzled by how the giant flying ultralong pterosaurs took off and supported their thin necks when flying with heavy prey.
However, this mystery was solved thanks to a new CT scan of the complete remains found in Morocco.
The discovery, published on iScience, shows images similar to spoke-like structures that are spirally arranged around the central tube inside the cervical spine, similar to bicycle wheels.
This intricate design is said to show how these flying reptiles have evolved to support their huge heads, which are usually longer than 1
Scientists suspect that this “lightweight” structure can provide strength without affecting the flying ability of the pterosaur.
Dave Martill, professor of paleontology in Portsmouth, said: “This is different from the animals seen in the vertebrae of any animal before. The neural tube is placed centrally in the vertebrae and passes through many thin rods. The rod-shaped trabeculae are connected to the outer wall, and the thin rod-shaped trabeculae are arranged radially like the spokes of a bicycle and arranged in a spiral shape along the length of the vertebrae.
They even crossed like bicycle spokes. Evolution has turned these creatures into awesome, efficient leaflets. “
The researchers originally planned to study the shape and movement of the pterosaur’s neck, but instead used the capabilities of CT scans to look inside.
Analysis shows that only 50 “spokes” on the neck of a pterodactyl can increase the buckling resistance by 90%.
Scientists believe that intricate structures can help engineers develop longer, thinner, and stronger lightweight structures.
Cariad Williams, the first author of the report, said: “These animals have ridiculously long necks. In some species, the fifth vertebra protruding from the head is the same as the animal’s body. long.
“This makes the giraffe look very normal. We wanted to know a little bit about how this incredibly long neck works, because there seems to be little mobility between each vertebra.”
Pterosaurs appeared in the fossil record of the Triassic period about 225 million years ago, but disappeared along with their dinosaur cousins at the end of the Cretaceous period about 66 million years ago.
The researchers said that because of these North African remains, they now want to answer some basic questions, such as the flight ability of pterosaurs, with a wingspan of up to 12 meters.
Martill said: “It is completely striking that the internal structure is perfectly preserved. When we examine it under a microscope, the structure of bone cells is the same. When we see the intricate patterns of the radial trabecular bone, we realize something special Things are happening.”