New Quetzalcoatlus northropi skeletal model from Triebold Paleontology

Short one today
… focusing on a tall pterosaur skeleton model.

Figure 1. A Quetzalcoatlus northropi model from Triebold Paleontology scaled up from a Q. sp. sculpture I made and sold to Triebold.

Figure 1. A Quetzalcoatlus northropi model from Triebold Paleontology scaled up from a Q. sp. sculpture I made and sold to Triebold. Maybe it is posed trying to cool itself off, by those wing fingers can fold up against the arms for membrane protection.

First time I’ve seen this. 
Although I heard rumors that Mike Triebold (Triebold Paleontology) had scaled up the Q. sp. model I sold him a few years ago (Fig. 2) to create a 3x taller Quetzalcoatlus northropi model (Fig. 1). Giants are fascinating.

Quetzalcoatlus neck poses. Dipping, watching and displaying.

Figure 2. Quetzalcoatlus neck poses. Dipping, watching and displaying. Yes, that was my living room.

The shorter original was held together by wire
so it could be manipulated into one pose after another, or stuffed away into a small box.

As a reminder,
the brevity of the wings (vestigial distal phalanges) and the top-heavy proportions otherwise mark this as a flightless pterosaur.

Quetzalcoatlus running like a lizard prior to takeoff.

Figure 3. Quetzalcoatlus running like a lizard unable to take off due to vestigial distal wing elements and proportions that sent the center of balance anterior to the wing chord.

Even so, those wings were powerful thrusters
for speedy getaways on land (Fig. 3). I realize this is heresy, but facts are facts. Clipped wings in birds and pterosaurs means they cannot fly. And only flightless birds and pterosaurs are able to achieve such giant sizes (Fig. 4).

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The largest flying and non-flying birds and pterosaurs to scale.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The largest flying and non-flying birds and pterosaurs to scale.

Tricleidus enters the LRT

No surprises here.
Tricleidus seeleyi (Fig. 1; Andrews 1909; Middle Jurassic, Callovian, BMNH R3539) ) enters the large reptile tree (LRT, 1435 taxa) alongside Plesiosaurus.

Figure 1. GIF animation of Tricleidus skull demonstrating both the enormous gape and the filter-feeding teeth that permit water to be pushed out by a constricting throat sac.

Figure 1. GIF animation of Tricleidus skull demonstrating both the enormous gape and the filter-feeding teeth that permit water to be pushed out by a constricting throat sac.

Why such long, slender and closely intermeshing teeth?
Not only do those long teeth provide excellent spiky fish traps, but upon closing they act like whale baleen in trapping food inside the mouth cavity while permitting the expulsion of excess water without losing the fish trapped inside.

As in other plesiosaurs
the large jaw muscles filling the posterior skull ensure a strong bite. A small ridge posterior to the jaw joint blocks over-extension of the mandible.

Andrews CW 1909, 1910. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Marine Reptiles of the Oxford Clay, Part I. British Museum (Natural History), London, England: 205 pp.


Pteranodon skull evolution movie

Earlier we looked at Pteranodon skulls all to the same scale and in phylogenetic order.  Today there’s a GIF movie that presents the same data (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Click to animate. Pteranodon skull movie. All the skulls are to the same scale and in phylogenetic order.

Figure 1. Click to animate. Pteranodon skull movie. All the skulls are to the same scale and in phylogenetic order. Each skull appears for 2 seconds and the animation recycles when the page is reloaded. And yes, the long-crested clade does terminate with three smaller taxa.

The first tiny specimen is actually an outgroup Germanodactylus. Long crests and great size evolve from small crests and small size. Learn more about Pteranodon variety here.

Long-crested taxa had digitigrade feet. Tall-crested taxa had flat feet. Other postcranial differences are discussed here.

Hall Train Walking T-rex Model at the AMNH

If you haven’t seen this before, it’s as fascinating as the real thing. This walking model of T-rex, animated with rods and gears is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.

Figure 1. Click to see video. The famous walking T-rex model at the AMNH created by Hall Train and John Allen.

Figure 1. Click to see video. The famous walking T-rex model at the AMNH created by Hall Train and John Allen.

The Hall Train Studio has produced some of the most spectacular dinosaur museum displays and animation ever. I don’t want to steal too much of their thunder. Check out their website now.

“The Croods” Critter Chimaeras

Something light to refresh the palate:
A new animated film, The Croods (Dreamworks 2013) includes a number of chimaera creatures to add to the fun. It’s been out for awhile. On a rainy Saturday I saw it at the dollar show.

The Croods from Dreamworks Entertainment.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The Croods from Dreamworks Entertainment.

The have a Girelephant (elephant with giraffe markings).

A Jackrobat (back half rabbit, front half vampire bat with short webbed fingers).

A Liyote (half lizard, half coyote).

Turkeyfish, from The Croods by Dreamworks Entertainment.

Turkeyfish, from The Croods by Dreamworks Entertainment.

A Turkeyfish (more like an ornithocheird mixed with an elephant bird (which was a real bird!) Maybe this is some sort of pike/turkey mix.

A mousephant (mouse for a father, elephant for a mother).

A Macawnivore (big cat in parrot colors).

A Fishcat (self-explanatory like a catfish).

Bearowl from The Croods by Dreamworks Entertainment.

Bearowl from The Croods by Dreamworks Entertainment.

A Bearowl (see above, more of a catowl, if you ask me. )

A Ramu (half ram (that tends an egg), of an emu body.

Crocdog from the Croods by Dreamworsk Entertainment.

Crocdog from the Croods by Dreamworsk Entertainment.

A Crocopup (see above, croc head, dog body and tongue).

A piranha bird (self explanatory).

And they have a quad-wing bird (see above) that flies like a plesiosaur is thought to swim, with languid alternating front and back strokes.

A sweet, but not a great movie, with an odd assortment of creatures from the Croodaceaous era. Kids in the audience laughed at only a few off to the side silly/cute moments. I have to admit, a napped a little during the show, but I had a big lunch. Star Trek, on the other hand, was non-stop fantastic!

The Critters
None of these chimaera hold a candle to the real wonders of the Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic and Permian. Check out Greg Paul’s “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs” for the real wonders among dinosaurs and for the real wonders among non-dinosaurs.

Blue links will take you around the ‘net to check out more images, including the official Croods website.

TV worth watching: PBS special on prehistoric Australia

I endorse the new PBS/Nova series on prehistoric Australia called, “Australia: First 4 Billion Year.” It’s a fast-paced eye-opener.

The first in the four/part series can be seen here, Australia: Awakening. Host Dr. Richard Smith journeys back to the very beginning of the Australian story.

The second in the series can be seen here, Australia: Life Explodes, focusing on Ediacaran, Cambrian, Silurian and Devonian fossils.

Australia: Monsters, part 3 of the 4-paet series by PBS/Nova.

Figure 1. Australia: Monsters, part 3 of the 4-paet series by PBS/Nova. Click to go the PBS/Nova site.

The third in the series can be seen here, Australia: Monsters, featuring dinosaurs and enaliosaurs.

The final part can be seen here after in airs May 1, Australia: Strange Creatures, featuring the monotremes and marsupials, of course.

New Bipedal Tapejara Take-Off Video

A bipedal pterosaur video!
Just ran across this Tapejara skeleton take-off, fly and land video from the Huffington Post – and its a bipedal takeoff! The original came from the Sankar Chatterjee lab at Texas Tech in November 2012.

Click to animate. Tapejara take-off, flight and landing by the Sankar Chatterjee lab. Red arrows point to morphology problems. 1. Bend humerus back further. 2 Bend elbow more. 3. Pteroid goes to carpals, not the finger joint, unless that's a metacarpal lacking fingers. 4. Knees should be splayed 5. Extend hind limbs laterally.

Figure 1. Click to animate. Tapejara take-off, flight and landing by the Sankar Chatterjee lab. Nice to see. So many things are right about this animation. Yet, red arrows point to minor morphology problems. 1. Bend shoulder back further. 2 Bend elbow forward more. 3. When the elbow is bent, the pteroid angles out from the radius, framing the propatagium better. 4. Metacarpal lacking free fingers. 4. Knees should be splayed 5. Extend hind limbs laterally in flight.

The Huffington headline reads: Pterosaur ‘Runways’ Enabled Huge Prehistoric Flying Animal To Get Airborne, Study Suggests. By: Douglas Main, LiveScience Contributor
Published: 11/08/2012 03:01 PM EST on LiveScience.

How did pterosaurs takeoff and fly?
According to Main, “A new computer simulation has the answer: These beasts used downward-sloping areas, at the edges of lakes and river valleys, as prehistoric runways to gather enough speed and power to take off, according to a study presented Wednesday (Nov. 7) here at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.’First the animal would start running on all fours,'” Texas Tech University scientist Sankar Chatterjee, a co-author of the study, told LiveScience. “Then it would shift to its back legs, unfurl its wings and begin flapping. Once it generated enough power and speed, it finally would hop and take to the air,” said Chatterjee, who along with his colleagues created a video simulation of this pterosaur taking flight.

Unfortunately Chatterjee doesn’t give pterosaurs the credit they deserver when he reports, “This would be very awkward-looking,” he said. “They’d have to run, but also need a downslope, a technique used today by hang gliders. Once in the air, though, they were magnificent gliders.” 

So, a downslope was necessary and flapping was rare, evidently, in Chatterjee’s view. Unfortunately, Chatterjee, like the other pterosaur experts, has a built-in bias regarding pterosaurs in that he sees them too weak to run to take-off speed, except downhill, and too weak to flap sufficiently to create enough thrust without a runway, and too weak to flap with vigor while gaining altitude. The caption (Fig. 1) includes a few reconstruction suggestions.

Bipedal lizard video marker

Figure 2. Click to play video. Just how fast can quadrupedal/bipedal lizards run? This video documents 11 meters/second in a Callisaurus at the Bruce Jayne lab. just think what a pterosaur could attain, even without its wings.

Living bipedal lizards are anything but awkward-looking.
In fact they look incredibly like graceful bullets, faster than a rabbit  and impossible to see on film unless greatly slowed down, as shown here in the Bruce Jayne lab films.

Pterosaurs have what bats and birds have
The ability to flap and fly vigorously. Huge pectoral  and upper arm muscles, fur-covered body, independent wings and legs. Gosh, I feel like I’m looking out for the little guy (pterosaurs) here, having to defend them from pterosaur experts.

Doggone it. 
I realize everyone has their pet ideas and given those its important to trash the ideas of others. But this is Science and we can come to certain agreements. Nice to see Chatterjee showing that Tapejara could run bipedally! That’s a first step. Hopefully the round table at the Pterosaur Symposium in Rio in May will bring forth broad agreements on several issues without resorting to shoe throwing.

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.

David Attenborough’s Pterosaur Video – “Flying Monsters 3D” review

It’s always good to see pterosaurs on film or video. Too often its a disappointment as we’ve seen earlier with a National Geographic video. Usually it’s the same old dreadful stuff (list below), as archaic in thinking as tail-dragging dinosaurs. But here they toss in some novel ideas that will blow your mind (Fig. 1).

Why have pterosaurs been so singularly disfigured in morphology and behavior?? It’s like everyone involved has decided to discard their thinking caps!

Click here for part 1 of David Attenborough’s Flying Monsters 3D, presented by Serengeti Entertainment, an IMAX presentation now available on YouTube in five parts. The quality is excellent, so be sure to [fill your screen] with the video.

Tapejara using its wings and head crest to sail instead of fly, following hypotheses put forth by Sankar Chatterjee.

Figure 1. Here’s a first: Tapejara using its wings and head crest to sail instead of fly, following hypotheses put forth by Dr. Sankar Chatterjee. These pterosaurs are not flapping. They are holding their wings up like masts (at great strain, I might add). They have no underwater keel, so how they are keeping upright is a mystery. Glad to see someone out there is really out there! Grist for the mill, of course.

The usual anatomical rants:
The animators of FM3D got their data from traditional pterosaur workers, the ones who are holding back real research and continuing to hold fast to bogus data, like:

  1. Deep chord wing membranes attached to the ankles.
  2. In basal pterosaurs, a single uropatagium from leg to leg, not including the tail.
  3. In derived pterosaurs, useless uropatagia not providing lift for posteriorly directed hind limbs.
  4. Flat wings with no camber.
  5. No arm muscles. Too little thigh muscles.
  6. Fingers pointing forward while terrestrial or arboreal.
  7. Pedal digit 5 on basal pterosaurs not being used beneath a digitigrade pes.
  8. No idea where pterosaurs came from or how they developed wings.

Topic 1. How did pterosaurs first take to the air?
Attenborough’s narrative suggests it was the quest for flying insects, or to get from tree to tree in search of crawling insects that drove pre-pterosaurs to develop wings. Draco volans, the rib-gliding lizard, is Attenborough’s analog. Of course, this entirely misses the development of bipedal locomotion and flapping and only hints at the fact that traditional paleontologists are entirely stymied by the origin of pterosaurs. Sadly, today, there are even pterosaur ‘experts’ out there out don’t even know what a pterosaur is, or how pterosaurs fit into the reptile family tree! And there’s no excuse for that ‘nowadays’ with phylogenetic analysis — that is, unless those paleontologists have willfully decided to turn a blind eye toward good data and refuse to test the best working hypotheses for fear of having to retreat from their untenable claims. Of course, there’s motive and opportunity here.

We do get a good view of the rib-gliding lizard, Draco, landing on a tree (this may be CG = computer graphics) with full deployment of the rib membranes in the vertical plane creating maximum drag and a four-point landing right in front of the camera!

Topic 2. Flapping
Attenborough takes us to the white Jurassic cliffs along the coast of Dorset, England, to introduce us to the story of Mary Anning. This is a skillful redirection away from the actual origins of flapping, but allows Attenborough to introduce us to Dimorphodon, his most basic pterosaur complete with pedal digit 5 pointing medially at full extension toward the tail, framing the full uropatagium stretched between the hind limbs beneath the tail. Here the wings are too short and the tail is way-way too short. There are no Triassic pterosaurs featured in the film.

Click here for part 2
Topic 3. Eating
Dimorphodon flies through swarms of insects, gathering them with its (too wide) mouth. A very narrow skull is actually present. Here the hind  legs and feet are improperly positioned in the horizontal plane while flying. That’s because Dimorphodon had dinosaur-like hind limbs, with femoral head at right angles to the shaft, unable to rise to the horizontal plane. Such legs were good for bipedal locomotion on dinosaurs – but evidently the experts hold a prejudice against that activity in pterosaurs.

Crashing into another Dimorphodon on the wing leads to our hero dropping into a river then sinking to the bottom to initiate fossilization.

Topic 4. Finding fossils and the wing joint
From there we segue to the Solnhofen limestone quarry where Attenborough splits limestone hoping to find a specimen. We meet the darkwing specimen of Rhamphorhynchus, famous for preserving so much detail in the wings. Attenborough notes the “miracle joint” (the wing joint) “to move their fingers in any direction,” and that allowed them to fold up their wing when they landed.” Unfortunately, the next scene and all other pterosaur scenes do not show the wings folded as they could be, making the membrane essentially disappear, as shown in fossils, but rather the wing fingers never quite closes up because the too-large deep chord membrane is always present, hanging like a blanket, as it does in virtually all pterosaur movies.     :  (

Topic 5. Darwinopterus and the pterodactyloid transition
David Attenborough next pays a visit to Dr. Dave Unwin who presents Darwinopterus, which he thinks bridges the gap between basal, long-tailed pterosaurs and later, short-tailed forms. Actually, as we have seen earlier here and here, tiny pterosaurs bridge that gap and Darwinopterus is a dead-end pre-scaphognathid pterosaur close to Pterorhynchus leaving no descendants. Darwinopterus simply has a longer neck and longer rostrum than most basal pterosaurs, but the longer skull has its origins with Pterorhynchus at the base of that clade. Dr. Unwin describes Darwinopterus as a “weird mix of characters, primitive and advanced, a little bit like Frankenstein’s monster.” Someone should inform Dr. Unwin that evolution doesn’t work like this. It doesn’t work in modules. That’s why, if you study pterosaur feet, or any other sort of animal feet, you can make a pretty good guess what sort of skull it had. At the time scales involved, every part of the body evolves, not just the head or the tail. Not permitting tiny pterosaurs into his database was Unwins’ downfall, and he’s had many.

Topic 6. Wing design
Very efficient in the air, but they [wings] evolved at a cost,” reports Attenborough. Dr. Unwin shows us a wire-frame model Rhamphorhynchus that flaps then lands, getting quadrupedal ASAP (Fig. 3).

Unwin’s model displays the fingers-forward error, which no tracks ever show. Attenborough tells us, “It’s easy to see that walking on flat surfaces would have been quite difficult for it.” The hands implant at twice or thrice the distance apart from the centerline as do the feet, which again do not match the fossil record. Experimenting with a bipedal pose, Unwin’s model Rhamphorhynchus tail catches or drags on the ground and walks like young Forrest Gump in leg braces. Why this is so is difficult to say because pterosaur tails were very flexible at the base of the pelvis and stiff only some distance beyond that. Clearly any pterosaur could raise its tail over its head Fiig. 2), let alone extend it directly out behind, like a bird. We even have bipedal pterosaur tracks.

The darkwing specimen of Rhamphorhynchus muensteri demonstrating more accurate proportions.

Figure 2. The darkwing specimen of Rhamphorhynchus muensteri demonstrating the ability to raise its tail while bipedal. The wing membrane is shown expanded here, for illustrative purposes, but would have folded much more tightly against the spar in life. And note, there is no awkward and untenable membrane from the forelimb to the ankle here, as in figure 3.

Topic 7. Walking styles
Dr. Unwin argues for a quadrupedal terrestrial locomotion in Rhamphorhynchus, despite the universally acknowledged handicaps it presents and lack of evidence for any basal pterosaur to walk quadrupedally. And this situation is not improved by leaning too far forward (as in Fg. 3), as Unwin proposes. Moreover, Unwin’s Rhamphorhynchus with its leg-to-leg uropatagium and deep chord to the ankle wing membranes creates a three-sided tent beneath the pterosaur that cannot fold away.

Figure 3. Wireframe Rhamphorhynchus by David Unwin. The uropatagium (between the legs) and the deep chord wing membrane combine to produce a three-sided tent, ideal for catching the wing like a parachute.

Figure 3. Wireframe Rhamphorhynchus by David Unwin. The uropatagium (between the legs) and the deep chord wing membrane combine to produce a three-sided tent, ideal for catching the wing like a parachute.

These three fictitious membranes would make great wind catchers should any light breeze or strong storm seek to push a pterosaur off its perch. Such errors would have made pterosaurs virtual open parachutes. The preferred anatomy (Fig. 2) shows any pterosaur could have folded up its wing membrane virtually completely, assisted by the internal fibers, and, of course hunkering down when it really gets windy.

Click here for part 3
Topic 8. Pterodactyls
We get to meet “new style” pterosaurs, or pterodactyls, in Crayssac, France. Attenborough reports “the membrane between the legs split.” Ouch! According to more accurate data, there never was a membrane stretched between the legs. In Sordes that was a displaced ulna and radius together with some displaced wing membrane shown here. The darkwing Rhamphorhynchus clearly shows two uropatagia, but, sadly, like Creationists, traditional pterosaur workers continue to politely ignore such readily seen data.

Topic 9. Crayssac Tracks
Attenborough tells us the manus impressions at Crayssac are made by “the knuckles” and that the wing finger was the “little” finger, rather than digit 4. Both wrong, of course.

Then a little Pterodactylus runs across its own tracks, much as in this animation. Happily the wing is much narrower in chord, but the animators force the poor creature into a hunchback so that it’s wrists are unnaturally bent too far, like an old crone with walking sticks. Straightened up a bit and the walk would have been near perfect. Sadly, even with these narrower chord membranes, the animators continued to extend the wing membrane down the leg, even though this added nothing to the aerodynamics and only served to reinforce an old stereotype that needs to be abandoned. Also unfortunately, the animators paid little heed to the manus tracks and continued to plant the free fingers far outside their path.

Pterodactylus walk matched to tracks according to Peters

Figure 4. Click to animate. Plantigrade and quadrupedal Pterodactylus walk matched to tracks

“The new ability to walk had a profound effect on pterosaur evolution,” Attenborough says. This is the current paradigm???!!! No wonder we’re in trouble. So in pterosaurs, according to Attenborough, first they could walk, then they couldn’t, then they could. Yeah.

Pterodaustro is shown with its sieve-like jaws. Pteranodon should have a sword-like rostrum, but here it is sword-like horizontally as well, creating a sort of box shape. Never saw that before. Hope to never see it again.

Topic 10. Pteranodon soaring
Pteranodon is shown in all of its majesty, with a deep chord membrane soaring above the clouds.

Then Archaeopteryx is introduced as half-reptile, half-bird.

Click here for part 4
Topic 11. Tapejara crests
Dr. Sankar Chatterjee works on Tapejara in Texas. He says the giant soft tissue crest is a steering device, a wind sensor and a rudder in front to be more aerobatic. All this is probable. Attenborough reports that some specimens of Tapejara had fur, which means they were warm-blooded. A little late to be saying that… because we learned earlier that such pycnofibers preceded pterosaurs and go all the way back to Sharovipteryx and Cosesaurus. Then Chatterjee goes out on a limb when he reports pterosaurs used their open and upraised wings as sails when floating on the sea (Fig. 1). Of course, lifting the arms for extended periods during windy conditions is most tiring. Chatterjee reports, “The head crest would be just like a jib.” 

Isn’t it much easier to just fly, with the wings supported by the airstream and without all that hydrodynamic drag? Ducks and geese use water to slow down their landings, after all.  There was one example of a forelimb takeoff, but it was off the side of a cliff. Luckily so, otherwise the ensuing drop would have been a crash before the first wing flap. (See, I told ya!)

Topic 12. Pterosaur eggs
Attenborough shows us a pterosaur egg with well-formed wings, which tells us the chick was able to fly immediately after hatching. “Embryo bones,” Attenborough tells us, “develop differently in pterosaurs than in birds. And this led to some pterosaurs becoming gigantic.” Well, actually we’ve had big birds, too, like elephant birds, much larger than most pterosaurs.

Topic 13. Quetzalcoatlus Introduced
The subject of giants takes us to Big Bend National Park, home of Quetzalcoatlus, which was so big, Attenborough tells, “for years some scientists r to believe that it could have existed.” That’s news to me. I thought everyone accepted it from the start.

We meet Doug Lawson, who found Q. on a sandstone hillside. Later Q is shown scavenging a dead dinosaur, its only competition is another Q. Some rummaging lizards get picked up and slurped down to their dismay in a nod toward the Witton and Naish.

Click here for part 5
Topic 14. Pterosaur Takeoff
How did Quetzalcoatlus get off the ground? A CT scan of the humerus reveals the insides but in CG. The supporting struts are said to line up in one direction for maximum strength in that dimension. Then we meet Mike Habib’s Anhanguera again, catapulting its body skyward at a reported 35 miles per hour. That’s so hard to believe when smaller, more muscular kangaroos can only manage no more than 16 mph on the first hop with better leverage and bigger muscles.  Earlier we looked at the impossibility of a forelimb launch using larger bones but much smaller muscles in the arm compared to the leg.

The precisely engineered sailplane (with narrow-chord wings!) that comes up next is airborne at 46 mph. Of course with the deep chord wing membrane the flaps on Attenborough’s pterosaurs are virtually always extended, creating more lift and drag, especially so during the launch with legs extended down. That’s not the optimal sailplane wing shape that champions. There is a better way to get airborne and that is by using those long wings to create something the engineers call, “thrust” which can be directed down and back at the same time.

Topic 15. Asteroid impact? Or the domination of birds?
Part five finishes with a standard asteroid impact, but Attenborough blames the birds for setting pterosaurs on the path toward extinction. He tells us, birds had the advantage of decoupled wings, not attached to the legs. “No pterosaurs, encumbered by their skinny wings could wade like flamingoes, Attenborough reports. Yet that’s exactly what wading pterosaurs, like Ctenochasma, Quetzalcoatlus and Pterodaustro did! We have their footprints! Attenborough is correct, however, if pterosaurs had put on the wrong wing membrane when they got out of bed. If a deep chord membrane got into water, it would have filled up with water. Thankfully that problem never happens with a narrow-chord membrane.

Revised Qiuetzalcoatlus from Flying Monsters 3D with David Attenborough.

Figure 6. Click to enlarge. Revised Qiuetzalcoatlus from Flying Monsters 3D with David Attenborough.

In Summary
So much effort goes into making these animated films. It’s just too bad they’re working from such out-dated blueprints of disfigured pterosaurs.

Mark Witton reported here, “A handful of pterosaur researchers were consulted in the making of the film, too – David Unwin, David Martill, Michael Habib and myself were all involved to ensure the science was on the money. With credentials like that, it’s understandable that expectations were higher for this than for many palaeodocs and, indeed, the programme has caused a stir around the world with palaeobloggers-a-plenty eager for it to land on their cinematic shores this Spring. Problem is, once you’ve taken in how nice everything looks, you start to focus on the story you’re being told and the content of the programme, and that’s where the issues begin.” And Mark lists many issues I glossed over (and ignores others that are not problems according to him.) He summarizes:
 “It really seems that, with a bit more care, this could’ve been as much of an achievement for effective scientific communication as it has been for 3D technology, but it’s really an enormous missed opportunity.”

Donald Duck Dinosaur Skeleton

Just had to share this one (old news (2008) for most, new for me).

Donald Duck skeleton

Donald Duck skeleton. Note the long sacral series and very birdy hips. Pedal digit 1 has never been seen in cartoons, but is appears here. Contrast those with the very human (but lacking one digit) forelimbs and hands. All tongue in cheek, of course.

Follow these links to see the skeletons of other cartoon characters, Tom & Jerry, Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny.

Link 1 – Link 2 – Link 3

Here are the nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie (not sure which is which). This caught my eye and brought a big smile.

Huey, Dewey and Louie skeletons

Huey, Dewey and Louie skeletons

South Korean artist, Hyungkoo Lee, created this ‘Animatus’ series with the “intention to analyze anatomical structures and physical forms of animation characters, within the hypothesis to visualize their possible anatomical foundation.” Skeletons are a hybrid mix of animal bones and synthetic materials.

They are also a hybrid mix of avian (dinosaur feet) and human (mammal hands), but note the wishbone, long coracoids and sternum!

Disney (1929) had his own take on animated skeletons here.

Earlier Roadrunner was transformed into Pterorunner here. 

Cosesaurus running and flapping animation

Cosesaurus is the “Archaeopteryx” of pterosaurs, the “ur-flugsaurier,” the one that has so many pterosaur traits, yet does not have the key trait, wings. The large reptile tree indicates that Cosesaurus is closer to the origin of pterosaurs than is any archosaur in traditional studies.

Earlier we talked about how the pes of Cosesaurus matches narrow-gauge, digital, occasionally bipedal tracks with a hyper-flexed pedal digit 5 attributed to Rotodactylus. Those tracks document this sort of locomotion in this sort of reptile.

Earlier we also talked about the stem-like coronoid and strap-like scapula and sternal complex of Cosesaurus, all of which contributed to its ability to flap, based on similarities to birds and pterosaurs.

Earlier we talked about the important contributions of Dr. Paul Ellenberger, who, unfortunately, insisted that Cosesaurus was a pro-avian and was thus blinded to the possibility that Cosesaurus was a pro-pterosaur. Similarly modern paleontologist keep insisting that pterosaurs were archosaurs, blinding them to the possibility that pterosaurs were lizards.

Added a day later
And just so the point is not lost, no predecessor to the basal pterosaur, MPUM6009, could fly. They could leap, flap and glide, but the wings and pectoral girdle were not relatively large enough to sustain climbing flight. 

So, without further ado, I present a simple animation of Cosesaurus running and flapping based on Dr. Bruce Jayne’s treadmill lizards (Jayne’s video here).

Figure 1. Cosesaurus flapping - fast. There should be a difference in the two speeds. If not, apologies. Also, there should be some bounce in the tail and neck, but that would involve more effort and physics.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge and animate. Cosesaurus flapping – fast. Dr. Jayne’s treadmill lizards run extremely fast and the legs here, if just as fast, should appear as blurs. There should be some bounce in the tail and neck here, but the effort to produce that was not attempted.

Figure 2. Cosesaurus running and flapping - slow.

Figure 2. Click to enlarge. Cosesaurus running and flapping in slower motion. Pedal digit 5 would have impressed only while walking. Cosesaurus was also capable of quadrupedal locomotion, according to Rotodactylus tracks and the hands impressed in a digitigrade fashion.

In Summary
The elongate ilium and the addition of two sacrals for a total of four in Cosesaurus indicates a bipedal configuration, as is often the case with terrestrial reptiles. The prepubis may have contributed to this ability. The simple hinge (mesotarsal) ankle joint supports this. Unlike most lizards, members of the Tritosauria, like Cosesaurus and Huehuecuetzpalli, did not fuse the astragalus and calcaneum. The attenuated tail is a tritosaur/pterosaur trait. The pectoral girdle was pterosaurian, able to flap, but the arms were too short to fly. Even so a pteroid, preaxial carpal and trailing fibers were also pterosaurian traits (the fibers support the wing membrane in pterosaurs). Flapping was likely a secondary sexual behavior, designed to attract mates or drive off enemies, analogous, perhaps, to the frilled neck of the similar, but unrelated Australian frillneck lizard, which is also a capable biped, which does not flap its arms.

As in Dr. Jayne’s lizards
and despite a sprawling femur, the footfalls of Cosesaurus (Rotodactylus) were narrow-gauge and digitigrade, countering decades of traditional thinking regarding running lizards.

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.

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