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Giant lizards have learned to fly for millions of years



Giant lizards learned to fly for millions of years

Rhamphohynchus-one of 75 pterosaurs studied by researchers Source: Mark Witton

The pterosaurs and other related winged reptiles that lived alongside dinosaurs have steadily improved their flying ability over the course of millions of years, becoming the deadly masters of the sky.


A new study published in the journal nature Studies have shown that pterosaurs are a group of creatures that became the first flying vertebrates on earth. After they have evolved for more than 1

50 million years of survival time, they have continued to evolve to improve their flight performance until they compared with those of 66 million years ago The dinosaurs went extinct at the same time.

Scientists at the University of Reading, Lincoln University and the University of Bristol have conducted the most detailed research to date, studying how animals become more and more adapted to their environment over time. They combined the fossil record with a new flight model based on today’s living birds to measure their flight efficiency and fill the gaps in our understanding of the evolutionary story.

This allows scientists to track the gradual evolution of pterosaurs and prove that their flying ability during flight has tripled. It also shows that their evolution was caused by continuous small improvements over a long period of time, rather than sudden evolution as previously suggested.

The funder of the Refhum Foundation is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading. The lead author of the study, Professor Chris Wangditi, said: “Pterosaurs are a group of winged lizards, some resembling sparrows, some resembling one. A sparrow. Fans of the movie “Jurassic World” will see how huge and deadly dramatic these creatures will be. Their diet mainly includes other animals, from insects to small dinosaurs.

“Although they eventually demonstrated extraordinary abilities in the air, the question of whether pterosaurs will become better at flying and whether this gives them an advantage over their ancestors has plagued scientists for decades. Many examples show that nature Choosing how to work in a relatively short time scale, but until now, it has become very difficult to prove whether plants or animals are adapted to long-term efficiency.

“Our new method allows us to study long-term evolution in a completely new way, and finally answers this question by comparing organisms at different stages of evolutionary order over millions of years.”

Giant lizards have learned to fly for millions of years

Cimoliopterus-one of the 75 species of pterosaurs conducted by researchers.Credit: Mark Witton

Pterosaurs evolved from terrestrial animals and appeared in the form of leaflets in the early Triassic period about 245 million years ago. The first fossils came from 25 million years later.

Scientists use fossils to measure the wingspan and body size of pterosaurs at different stages to monitor changes in pterosaur flight efficiency. Their new model based on live birds was applied to the data of 75 pterosaurs, which shows that pterosaurs have gradually become better over millions of years of flight.

These models show that after 150 million years of flight history, pterosaurs have adapted to their body shape and size, reducing their energy consumption by 50%. They showed that the mass of these creatures increased tenfold, and some eventually weighed more than 300 kilograms.

The new method also reveals that a group of pterosaurs (apes) are exceptions to this rule. Scientists hold different opinions on the flight status of these animals, but this new study shows that they have not improved in the whole survival process.

In contrast, the enlarged azhdarchoids seem to provide a survival advantage, and an animal Quetzlcoatlus grows to the height of a giraffe.

Dr. Joanna Baker, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading and co-author, said: “This is unique evidence that although these animals are capable flying machines, they may spend money on the ground. A lot of time. Efficient flight may not provide them with great advantages. We found that they have smaller wings and smaller wings. This is related to fossil evidence that they are less dependent on flight.”

Professor Stuart Humphries, a biophysicist at Lincoln University and the author, commented: “In the past 300 million years, only a few things have not changed. One of them is the laws of physics. Therefore, using These laws are great for understanding evolution to fly on these amazing animals.”

Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol said: “Until recently, paleontologists have been able to describe the anatomy of organisms and determine their functions based on fossils. Now, it is possible to calculate the operating efficiency of extinct animals, and then through their evolution. Compare to understand how efficiency changes. Not only do we not have to be surprised to observe fossils, but we can really grasp what they tell us.”


Naked prehistoric monsters: prehistoric flying reptiles may refute evidence of feathers


More information:
Pterosaur flight efficiency has continued to increase for 150 million years, nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2858-8, www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2858-8

Provided by the University of Reading

Citation: Giant lizards learned to fly for millions of years (October 28, 2020), retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-giant-lizards-learnt-millions-years.html to October 2020 Month 28

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