Predator Drones and Pterosaurs

A General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.

Figure 1. A General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. Note the narrow wing planform and the down-angled “horizontal” stabilizers (aka ruddervators) just like a basal pterosaur!

Looking at a picture of the Predator drone (Fig. 1) I am reminded of the true morphology of pterosaurs: a narrow wing planform, laterally extended followed by down-angled ruddervators (the hind limbs). As we discussed earlier, in later pterosaurs the femoral head was more aligned with the shaft of the femur. Thus they were able to extend their hind limbs more laterally, ironically like the lizards they evolved from. But early on basal pterosaurs had right angle femoral heads, which did not enable the hind limbs to rise so high (Fig. 1). These early pteros had ruddervators too.

Austriadactylus femur. Range of motion.

Figure 2. Austriadactylus femur. Range of motion, perhaps a shade too much abduction in this case. Maybe not. In any case, the right angle femoral head disallowed lateral extension of the hind limb turning the hind limbs into ruddervators, like the Predator drone.

Wing Shape
A long narrow chord (high aspect ratio) wing planform is found on gliders and solar-powered fliers, not jets. This shape permits and encourages slow flight. From Wikipedia: “Wings with higher aspect ratios, that is, wings that are longer and skinnier, have lower drag for any given amount of lift than a wing of the same area that is shorter and fatter.”

Problems with the Elgin, Hone and Frey (2011) pterosaur wing model with corrections proposed by Peters (2002).

Figure 3. Click to enlarge. Problems with the Elgin, Hone and Frey (2011) pterosaur wing model with corrections proposed by Peters (2002). The image below is similar enough to the Predator drone with high aspect ratio wings and the ability for the hind limbs to become ruddervators when lowered.

The Conventional Reconstruction
The Elgin, Hone and Frey (2011) reconstruction does not echo the Predator drone wing shape and has many other problems (listed above) — all trumped by a complete lack of any evidence in the fossil record for a deep chord wing membrane. So go with the evidence.

As always, I encourage readers to see specimens, make observations and come to your own conclusions. Test. Test. And test again.

Evidence and support in the form of nexus, pdf and jpeg files will be sent to all who request additional data.

References
Elgin RA, Hone DWE and Frey E 2011. The extent of the pterosaur flight membrane. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56 (1), 2011: 99-111. doi: 10.4202/app.2009.0145

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