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A Functional Analysis of Flying and Walking in Pterosaurs

Kevin Padian
Paleobiology
Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer, 1983), pp. 218-239
Published by: Paleontological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2400656
Page Count: 22
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Functional Analysis of Flying and Walking in Pterosaurs
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Abstract

An analysis of the structure and kinematics of the forelimbs and hindlimbs of pterosaurs, and functional analogy with recent and fossil vertebrates, supports a reappraisal of the locomotory abilities of pterosaurs. A hypothesis of structural, aerodynamic, and evolutionary differences distinguishing vertebrate gliders from fliers is proposed; pterosaurs fit all the criteria of fliers but none pertaining to gliders. The kinematics of the reconstructed pterosaur flight stroke reveal a down-and-forward component found also in birds and bats; structural features of the shoulder girdle and sternum unique to pterosaurs may be explained in light of this motion. The recovery stroke of flight was accomplished, in birdlike fashion, by a functional reversal of the action of the M. supracoracoideus by the pronounced enlargement of the acrocoracoid process, which acted as a pulley. The wing membrane was supported and controlled through a system of stiffened, intercalated fibers, which were oriented like the main structural elements in the wings of birds and bats. The hindlimbs of pterosaurs were independent of the wing membrane, and articulated like those of other advanced archosaurs and birds, not like those of bats. The gait was parasagittal and the stance digitigrade. Because of limitations on the motion of the forelimb at the shoulder, pterosaurs could not have walked quadrupedally. However, bipedal locomotion appears to have been normal and quite sufficient in all pterosaurs. There is nothing batlike about pterosaur anatomy; on the other hand, pterosaurs bear close structural resemblances to birds and dinosaurs, to which they are most closely related phylogenetically.

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