The usual pterosaur myths repeated by Jagielska and Brusatte 2021

I wrote this comment
in the Cell Press Current Biology Magazine comments section after seeing the link in Facebook. This further amplifies my earlier hypothesis (re: MJ Benton and his textbook and D Naish and M Witton on hatchlings) that authors are not doing their own work on pterosaurs, but cherry-picking myths and cladograms from preferred authors.

This time
yet another student and professor (Jagielska and Brusatte 2021) join forces to spread old pterosaur myths as fact.

Nataliia Jagielska: You should not have written this academic paper. The first sentence: “Pterosaurs are closely related to dinosaurs,” is a myth. Phylogenetic analysis indicates pterosaurs are lepidosaurs. Your illustration of the Zittel wing of Rhamphorhynchus (in gray) is correct, with a membrane stretched between the elbow and wingtip, but then you used your imagination to stretch the membrane to the ankle. The pteroid is not unique to pterosaurs, but is shared with Cosesaurus, Sharovipteryx and Longisquama, all pterosaur sister taxa. Their is no mystery to their origin. These taxa share uropatagia, sternal complexes, elongate locked-down coracoids, antoribital fenestra, etc. You wrote, “there was yet another membrane extending between the legs.” This is a myth based on Sordes. That’s the dismembered left main wing membrane. The right membrane looks like the Zittel wing. The actual uropatagia are gracile behind each hind limb. The quadrupedal launch is a myth based on contact of the wing spar (fourth finger) with the substrate. That never happens and if attempted delays wing unfolding and the first flap long past the moment of impact after a face plant crash. The enormous azhdarchids were enormous because they were flightless, as vestigial distal wing phalanges indicate. Darwinopterus was not a transitional fossil, but a dead end. There were four pterodactyloid-grade clades. You discover this by simply adding taxa. Run your own analysis next time. Add taxa that were proposed twenty years ago. You’ll see for yourself. More details, citations and links therein here:

Jagielska N and Brusatte SL 2021. Primer Pterosaurs. Cell Press Current Biology Magazine. R984 Current Biology 31, R973–R992, August 23, 2021 link here.


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