29 May 2008

Ancient Flying Reptiles Hunted on Foot

Posted by Ryan Anderson

This azhdarchid doesn’t need to be flying to eat you.

I know, I know. This has nothing to do with Mars. But it’s my blog, and I never really grew out of the “dinosaurs are awesome! I want to be a paleontologist!” phase that many kids go through. So, that said, check this out.

The Daily Mail has an article about new research that shows that at least one type of pterosaur, known as azhdarchids, were just as comfortable hunting on the ground as they were soaring through the skies.
Edit: Tetrapod Zoology, which is written by Darren Naish, one of the co-authors of the paper, has a really excellent post about all of this. According to Mark Witton, co-author of the paper:

All the details of their anatomy, and the environment their fossils are found in, show that they made their living by walking around, reaching down to grab and pick up animals and other prey”

Awesome! I do have a bone to pick with the article though. It calls the azhdarchids dinosaurs. It always annoyed me, even as a kid, when flying and swimming reptiles were called dinosaurs. Dinosaur is a scientific term and refers specifically to the descendants of the common ancestor between Triceratops and modern birds. Pterosaurs (flying reptiles) do not fall into this group. The birds out your window are much closer to being flying dinosaurs than pterosaurs are. For that matter, aquatic reptiles (mosasaurs and plesiosaurs) and the earlier mammal-like reptiles such as Dimetrodon are also decidedly not dinosaurs.