Monday, December 27, 2010

Low flying Pteranodon

There are far too few good pterosaur mounts in museums around the world, but admittedly with generally good reason. They are hard to model, there are few casts around, the interesting ones like Pteranodon are really quite big, and really you want them flying. That means mounting stuff on the ceiling which is difficult and even dangerous (well, public safety at least becomes an issue). And of course, much as I might loathe to admit it, they are just not as popular as dinosaurs. Still, there has been a slow but steady increase in the number of mounts like these turning up which is a good thing.

This particular one is in Eichstaett, and lovely it is too (thought the black Quetzalcoatlus above it is not half as nice). The mount is actually not far off the ground which make it easy to get a good look at it (I have seen an Anhanguera mounted about 5m off the ground in Frankfurt and you can barely see what is obviously a nice model) but the downside to this is that it's very hard to get far enough away to get the whole thing in frame, as the last photo shows.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tis the season of Pterodactylus

I've now managed to sort through most of my photos from my trip to the Solnhofen. That has resulted in me being able to put up some nice Pterodactylus photos over on my blog. So, since this site is just supposed to be about pterosaurs, I rather assume the readers would be interested. Here's a pair of special fossils, if for rather different reasons, and here's what happens to pterosaurs that really settle in Bavaria.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pterosaur mandibular fenestrae

So after that huge hiatus, suddenly is back up and running and you get a raft of posts close together. Obviously as this is Dave again, I'm not going to totally recycle my posts form my own blog, but actively send you over there to read what I have already written. Still, this is an interesting paper because it tackles that terminally vexing problem of pterosaur origins.

The problem with specialising for flight is that it tends to require you remodel your skeleton rather drastically and for palaeontologists working just from bones, that can make it difficult to work out exactly which features are there, or are there but radically changed, or have gone. Thus while the pterosaur fossil record is pretty good in some respects, we have really struggled when it comes to working out their ancestors / nearest relatives from among the other reptiles. (Obviously we've narrowed it down a lot, but pinning it exactly is tricky).

One major character they have always seemed to lack is a mandibular fenestra, basically a hole in the jaw, which is otherwise present in many dinosaur and croc-like reptiles that pterosaurs are supposed to be related to. No fenestra, perhaps no close ties. But specimens both new-ish and old show that actually this might be present, and the discovery of various dinosaur relatives show some rather pterosaur like features. In short, the gap in our knowledge and the gap in the supposed differences in anatomy is starting to shrink.

If you want the full details, then head on over to the Musings where you can read part 1 and part 2 of my report on my new paper (with Sterling Nesbitt). Enjoy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Research updates

Well Mark and Mike have been promising for a while to blog about their paper of last month, but noting has quite materialised as yet. Still, if you have missed it, it is freely available online here at PLoS one. However, they are not the only ones to have been pterosaur-ing of late. Friends and colleagues of the team in Tamara Fletcher and Colin Palmer have both had recent papers out and were good enough to blog about them for me over on the Musings. Tamara introduces some new Australian material and talks about the difficulty of writing that first paper and Colin takes us through his work on pterosaur flight.

So hop over there and take a look. I'm just back from a trip to Germany including a visit to Helmut Tischlinger and Ross Elgin and will have some photos to come from that too.