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Flying Reptile The Size of A Small Airplane

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the mind-the-droppings dept.

Science 264

An anonymous reader wrote to mention a New Zealand Herald article about a pterosaur that has been discovered to have an almost 18 meter wingspan. From the article: "A Spitfire has a wingspan of 11m and has to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Pterosaurs did it on a diet of fish and a superb ability to utilise air currents, thermals and ground effects. There is nothing close to pterosaurs alive today. Pterosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, they left no descendants and we don't know quite what their closest relative was."

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i got one better (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530510)

Even more impressive is the size of dinosaur penises. You can thank me for this one later. AC.

Re:i got one better (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#13530535)

Aerobrake?

Re:i got one better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530752)

Hook for the 1/4 mile launching winch. That's how you launch gliders if you can't afford a tow plane.

FP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530511)

At Last!

At last??? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530536)

You mean at first ...

Good morning, Professor Falken ... (4, Insightful)

DoktorTomoe (643004) | about 9 years ago | (#13530514)

people think they have never been, but once, the skies were full of them...

Right, Petrosaurs had a better fuel efficiency. They also didn't carry bombs over large distances and were likely not attacked by fighter planes.

Wait, wait... (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | about 9 years ago | (#13530583)

What about performance? (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | about 9 years ago | (#13530636)

...scientists are confused because animals are more efficient than machines...


It depends on how you define "efficient". TFA doesn't clarify exactly with which version of "Spitfire" they were comparing the Pterosaur, but a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XIX has a top speed of 740 km/h, maximum weight of 4082 kg on take-off, flying range of 2495 km, reaches up to 13100 meters altitude. All this with a wingspan of just 9.95 meters. I would like to see any living being top those specs.

Re:What about performance? (1)

RoadDoggFL (876257) | about 9 years ago | (#13530685)

Power and efficiency are two different things. Are Spitfire fish powered?

Re:What about performance? (5, Funny)

Hast (24833) | about 9 years ago | (#13530702)

No they are not fish powered, I hear then run on Petrosaurses. Very very dead ones.

Re:What about performance? (1)

gunnarstahl (95240) | about 9 years ago | (#13530745)

You can easily find its master when all you have to fuel the spitfire is a couple of fish...

From behind very thick shatterproof glass... (1)

leonbrooks (8043) | about 9 years ago | (#13530796)

...or haven't you seen the teeth [bbc.co.uk] on those suckers? (-:

Like the T Rex, however, I'd be asking serious questions about how well those teeth were anchored.

Re:Good morning, Professor Falken ... (3, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | about 9 years ago | (#13530588)

Right, Petrosaurs had a better fuel efficiency. They also didn't carry bombs over large distances and were likely not attacked by fighter planes.

I seem to recall Spitfires being fighter planes themselves, and therefore not carrying any bombs over any distances.

Re:Good morning, Professor Falken ... (0)

EtherealStrife (724374) | about 9 years ago | (#13530816)

You recall correctly, but your logic is flawed. Biplanes sometimes carried bombs, and WWII fighters [wikipedia.org] most certainly did. Not all the time, but often enough to be designed around that capacity.

I, for one, bow down before our wiki overlords. (as should you...)

Re:Good morning, Professor Falken ... (1)

queef_latina (847562) | about 9 years ago | (#13530620)

Why don't you shut the fuck up now?

You're not funny.

Re:Good morning, Professor Falken ... (1)

Ziviyr (95582) | about 9 years ago | (#13530720)

Surface to Air Missiles might have wiped out the Petrosaurs...

Re:Good morning, Professor Falken ... (4, Insightful)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | about 9 years ago | (#13530807)

Oh for god's sake, one of the natural wonders of the world is discovered, and the best we can come up with is a pissing contest about how we can make better machines. Guess what, the pterosaurs couldn't land on the moon or spit nuclear explosions either, aren't we great.

When you think about it, the likelihood of any fossils even existing, never mind surviving for us to find, is so low that its a miracle we have any record of what came before at all. I absoloutely guarantee that not one species in a million that existed in those days has left any sort of fossil record at all. Giant pterosaurs are most likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Besides, most of you are missing the the point, which is of course...

Here be dragons...

I for one (1, Offtopic)

DinX (889750) | about 9 years ago | (#13530515)

welcome our airplane sized reptile overlords

Re:I for one (5, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | about 9 years ago | (#13530597)

I for one welcome our airplane sized reptile overlords

Idiot, they're extinct.

Re:I for one (0)

konmem (628046) | about 9 years ago | (#13530615)

not according to the story:

"There is nothing close to pterosaurs alive today."

so... tell me which pterosaurs are alive today?

Well then let me be the first... (4, Funny)

ImaLamer (260199) | about 9 years ago | (#13530637)

I for one welcome our airplane sized extinct reptile overlords

closest relative? (5, Funny)

cperciva (102828) | about 9 years ago | (#13530517)

Pterosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, they left no descendants and we don't know quite what their closest relative was

I'm going to go out on a limb, and guess that the closest relative to a Pterosaur would be another Pterosaur.

Either that, or a Spitfire.

LOL POST LOL (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530577)

LOL POST LOL

imagine... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530522)

...a beowulf cluster of these!

Well duh (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#13530525)

A Spitfire has a wingspan of 11m and has to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine," Martill said. "Pterosaurs did it on a diet of fish and a superb ability to utilise air currents, thermals and ground effects.

Muscles are the most efficient actuation devices for small sizes. Mechanical equivalents are either power-hungry, awkward (too large, too small, too limited in the ways they output their power...) or not flexible enough.

Muscles produce powerful, fine-grained motion, with only ridiculous amounts of sugar and oxygen. I'm not sure comparing a big dinosaur with a big airplane means anything, as one is the result of millions of years of evolution, and the other only 50 years.

Re:Well duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530566)

A spitfire doesn't need a Merlin engine it's just nice to have 300mph on tap whilst tackling the bosch.

LOL POST LOL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530584)

LOL POST LOL

Re:Well duh (1)

torpor (458) | about 9 years ago | (#13530606)

Muscles produce powerful, fine-grained motion, with only ridiculous amounts of sugar and oxygen. I'm not sure comparing a big dinosaur with a big airplane means anything, as one is the result of millions of years of evolution, and the other only 50 years.


well, and presumably from here on out, the future of space flight is going to be the result of millions of years of evolutionary information 'cross-pollinating' the info-space of another species, and giving us all super-skins we can wear to get to work, in place of ye ol' SUV ..

Re:Well duh (5, Funny)

GbrDead (702506) | about 9 years ago | (#13530649)

Yeah, but the evolution of planes is... intelligent design :-)

yup, really lousy comparison (1)

tinkerton (199273) | about 9 years ago | (#13530784)

The comparison with a spitfire is as dumb as it gets. Why not an F-15 while they're at it?

One comparison that looks just acceptable would be with a glider. With a small helper engine to get it off the ground.

or the Gossamer Albatross (1)

tinkerton (199273) | about 9 years ago | (#13530786)

which had 30m span. About.

What about Quetzlcoatlus? (3, Informative)

c0l0 (826165) | about 9 years ago | (#13530529)

If I recall correctly, there was a spwan of the pterosauri constantly appearing in the books I read all the time in my early childhood with an estimated wingspan of about 15 to 18 meters, as well.

I am NOT going to watch quietly Quetzlcoatlus getting buried in oblivion!!1 :-(

Re:What about Quetzlcoatlus? (-1, Troll)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 9 years ago | (#13530550)

I guess you don't recall too good, and whoever modded you informative is an idiot.

The Quetzalcoatl (without -us at the end) is a mythical Aztec feathered-snake god. Whether it had a large wingspan or not is irrelevant, as the key word here is "mythical"...

Speak for yourself (4, Informative)

Lifewish (724999) | about 9 years ago | (#13530553)

Quetzalcoatlus [abc.net.au]

Re:What about Quetzlcoatlus? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530573)

Worst. Reply. Ever.

Re:What about Quetzlcoatlus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530629)

sigged.

rosco p coltrane, you must be totally embarrassed! dont you wish slashdot would let you delete comments!

http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=161844 &cid=13530550 [slashdot.org]

Re:What about Quetzlcoatlus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530552)

I moderated, so i post anonymously ....
Just wanted to say ..

Best. Sign. Ever. Period.

[GNU]ALMAFUERTE

Re:What about Quetzlcoatlus? (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | about 9 years ago | (#13530574)

The largest Quetzalcoatlus found had a wingspan of around 12m, although there was a bigger, incomplete specimen which *in theory* had an 18m wingspan. Nobody really knows, but either way this latest find is much bigger than the largest Q found. :-)

Re:What about Quetzlcoatlusracers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530667)

Oblivion? Thanks. You just reminded me of Cliff Racers in Morrowind. (Very pterosaur like)

At the same time, you have awakened the fear that they will appear in Oblivion.

Maybe all members of the pterosaur family were territorial jerks too.

Speaking of Quetzlcoatlus, Dagoth Ur wore an Aztec like mask. Oh the connections!

Zonk in Cat Stevens storm (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530531)

BBC News

Gay rights activist and Slashdot editor Zonk [slashdot.org] came under increasing pressure today to explain references in his new book "Pink Box Blogging" that alleges Yusuf Islam, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens was a homosexual guerilla fighter who worshipped Satan.

The Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie [aljazeera.com] condemned Zonk's book as "outrageous blasphemy" and ordered a fatwa on Zonk's head.

The book was also denounced by Trevor Phillips [warwick.ac.uk] , head of the Commisson for Racial Equality who said he was "extremely concerned by the unacceptable language used in the publication"

Zonk was unavailable for comment, but the Secret Lesbian Organization of Jihad Organization of Europe said "we must not rush to judgement without an informed debate"

Stupid comparison (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530533)

Well yes, they might have had a greater wingspan, but they certainly didn't fly mach 1, neither did they weight thousands of kilograms. So the statement that they were able to outperform Rolls Royce engines by fish digestion is plain stupid.

Re:Stupid comparison (4, Informative)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | about 9 years ago | (#13530590)

Yah, the Gossamer Albatross has a wingspan of over 29 meters and it runs on the leg muscles of a human.

Here's a better comparison (4, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | about 9 years ago | (#13530642)

the statement that they were able to outperform Rolls Royce engines by fish digestion is plain stupid


Instead of comparing pterosaurs with powered airplanes, they should compare them with powered gliders, which operate on similar specs. Look here [nasa.gov] and here [luftfahrtmuseum.com] for examples.

Re:Stupid comparison (1)

haggar (72771) | about 9 years ago | (#13530659)

While I agree that the comparison isdisingenuous, I would be willing to guess that these prehistoric flying animals weighted a few thousand kilograms still.

Re:Stupid comparison (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530670)

A Spitfire never flew Mach 1 either.

Not for long, anyway (1)

leonbrooks (8043) | about 9 years ago | (#13530841)

A few of the big SuperMarines and so on could easily exceed Mach 1 in a shallow dive, but had this nasty tendency to fly to pieces when they did so.

Re:Stupid comparison (1)

my_haz (840523) | about 9 years ago | (#13530690)

It works the other way too, Can the plane land on a tree branch?

Personally... (1, Insightful)

demondawn (840015) | about 9 years ago | (#13530539)

...the use of fragments of a fossilized skeleton, while I admit can be useful, seems tenuous at best. Certianly I dislike the idea that such flimsy evidence is used to envision not only an entire animal's musculature, but the fact that it is recordbreaking as well. It has the flavor of pseudoscience, to me (but then of course, I'm not a paleontologist.)

Re:Personally... (3, Interesting)

bladernr (683269) | about 9 years ago | (#13530551)

the use of fragments of a fossilized skeleton, while I admit can be useful, seems tenuous at best.

I thought the same thing. Anyone else ever been to a museum where they found like, a tooth and toenail, and then reconstructed what the entire animal looked like? They talk about mating patterns, herding, sounds they made... I mean, I love a good BS fest like anyone else, but, seriously, does anyone else think they are just sitting around a pub seeing who can make up the most ridiculous "dinosaur sound" and get it published? They probably just record the "dinosaur sounds" their kids make.

I guess that is the benefit of being in a profession where, if you are careful, you can't really be proven wrong. They must be the ones keep time travel technology under wraps...

Re:Personally... (3, Funny)

demondawn (840015) | about 9 years ago | (#13530558)

"Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the time travel under wraps? We do..."

Re:Personally... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530673)

I guess that depends what kind of fragments you find. If you find a huge toenail, huge piece of spline and a huge tooth, there is some pretty good chances the whole thing was big.

On the other hand, if you just find a huge toenail, it just might have been a big-footed dino.

And paleontologists can be proven wrong - all you need is to find a bone fragment that does not fit to the original reconstruction.

Re:Personally... (4, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 9 years ago | (#13530773)

huge piece of spline

I found one, but it turned out just to be a piece of NURBS

Re:Personally... (3, Interesting)

Sr. Zezinho (16813) | about 9 years ago | (#13530805)

Since more than 60 kinds of pterosaurs are known even a few fragments of a new species can provide enough information to support an hypothesis about their size. You don't have to be a paleontologist to understand that.

BREAKING NEWS!!! (5, Funny)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 9 years ago | (#13530547)

Dinosaurs were big.

Re:BREAKING NEWS!!! (4, Funny)

adtifyj (868717) | about 9 years ago | (#13530567)

... and we don't know very much about them. But look at this pretty picture I drew!!!

Re:BREAKING NEWS!!! (2, Funny)

Wontsomebodypleaseth (903695) | about 9 years ago | (#13530596)

godzilla is a dinosur

Re:BREAKING NEWS!!! (3, Funny)

FidelCatsro (861135) | about 9 years ago | (#13530589)

I read an interesting article a number of years ago , the basic premise was a theory that all dinosaurs were roughly the size of chickens . The only reason the bones we discover now are so large is due to absorption .
Perhaps it was total bunkum , but an interesting theory non the less

Re:BREAKING NEWS!!! (3, Funny)

ultranova (717540) | about 9 years ago | (#13530600)

I read an interesting article a number of years ago , the basic premise was a theory that all dinosaurs were roughly the size of chickens . The only reason the bones we discover now are so large is due to absorption .

No no no, that's not it ! The reason the bones we discover now are so large is that those chicken-sized dinosaurs really liked horror films with giant monster on them. All those fossil findings are just really old film shooting sites, where the cheapskate directors saved a penny by burying the garbage of the set onto the ground instead of properly disposing of it.

Re:BREAKING NEWS!!! (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | about 9 years ago | (#13530616)

Well if dinosaurs were really the size of chickens , a Jurassic park remake would be in order.
I can see it now "OH MY GOD , T-rex is nibbling on my shoelaces ".

Palaeontology is constantly in flux, with theories being thrown in left right and centre year on year.
New discoveries and new analysis are constantly showing inconsistencies with previous research.
If we look at the current views of dinosaurs even compared to 15 years ago, there is a near world of difference .

as big (1)

Uukrul (835197) | about 9 years ago | (#13530811)

as this [sakitama.or.jp] .

This story is useless... (3, Informative)

9Nails (634052) | about 9 years ago | (#13530548)

...without photographs!

How can you say, hey I found something really cool! And then don't show any one. I mean, really?! Come on!

Thier Closest Relative.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530549)

I'd like to nominate Bea Arthur

Thanks for playing

AC

Editors: edit (0, Troll)

aerthling (796790) | about 9 years ago | (#13530556)

Pterosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, they left no descendants and we don't know quite what their closest relative was.

That's the worst sentence I've read all day.

Re:Editors: edit (1)

thc69 (98798) | about 9 years ago | (#13530828)

Pterosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, they left no descendants and we don't know quite what their closest relative was.

That's the worst sentence I've read all day.
Why? Is it because "left no descendents" and "don't know what their closest relative was" are somewhat conflictatory?

better compare it to a glider. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530559)

Todays gliders made of composites have a wingspan of 18 meters. Actually they vary from 15 to 24 meters, but 18 meter is a standard class. Optimal speed is usually around 90 km/h and minimum speed is around 70 km/h. Of course a glider is built to carry a payload of about 100 kg.

So the closest relative (3, Funny)

jurt1235 (834677) | about 9 years ago | (#13530645)

That would be a person hanging from a 18m span glider on a fish eating diet?

I know one (5, Funny)

rasty (212471) | about 9 years ago | (#13530560)

Pterosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, they left no descendants and we don't know quite what their closest relative was

My mother in law.

Re:I know one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530806)

Good to see the mother in law jokes are back, I've missed them over the last 20 years.

flying prehistoric giants (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530562)

It takes some imagination after looking at bones to reconstruct in the mind or a drawing a bird that large. I guess a bird that would be floating on high and the bird could swoop over the water and grab fish. It is too bad that there are not some of those old adventure stories on radio that people especially young adults could learn to use their imagination. Visualizing these huge birds flying around or maybe soaring around would be something to see whether real or in the mind. It too bad there are not some of the old Two Adventure Stories that used have real action but well written that portrayed pictures by the use of words. Oh well have fun.

Re:flying prehistoric giants (2, Informative)

rqqrtnb (753156) | about 9 years ago | (#13530571)

Dude, they're not birds. They are pterosaurs, which means they were actually reptiles, with wings like those of bats. They technically aren't even the kinds of dinosaurs from which modern birds are descended.

As for stories that stimulate the visual imagination, try reading. "Jurassic Park," for example, in the original book has a fine scene in which some of the people get stuck in a gigantic dome containing pterasaurs; the scene, or a variation of it, was recycled for use in one of the later movies of the "Jurassic Park" saga, and it was decent, but I still thought that the books were far better -- precisely because of how they relied on descriptive stimulation of the imagination for effect, and did the job very well indeed. Michael Crichton doesn't hit one out of the park every time at bat, but "Jurassic Park" was a grand slam!

Messy (4, Funny)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | about 9 years ago | (#13530578)

Being under modern birds at the wrong moment can be bad enough. Can you imagine what being shat upon by one of these would be like?

Re:Messy (1)

t1m0r4n (310230) | about 9 years ago | (#13530681)

From the article:
Although it was originally thought pterosaurs merely glided, it is now believed they flapped their wings for powered flight. "If they were able to use a frog-like jump, that would have given them an extra bit of lift,"

Now, from where do they make these "frog-like" jumps? Some cliffs here and there, I suppose. But I'm picturing these monster sized birds climbing in the trees.

Or another comparison to modern birds: Where do they build their nests? Couldn't use simple staw, they'd need some serious lumber.

Re:Messy (1)

i41 (804842) | about 9 years ago | (#13530684)

Being under modern birds at the wrong moment can be bad enough. Can you imagine what being shat upon by one of these would be like?

Can we please stop the government bashing.

Re:Messy (1)

Net_Wakker (576655) | about 9 years ago | (#13530731)

Can you imagine what being shat upon by one of these would be like?

I attended a training once where one person consistently spoke about dragondrop instead of drag and drop. My imagination is way to visual for that kind of thing...

Re:Messy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530740)

Can you imagine what being shat upon by one of these would be like?

Sorry, but these questions have to be asked!

- Moomin

Re:Messy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530774)

I'm sure there's Japanese men that'd pay for that.

Re:Messy (1)

ricky-road-flats (770129) | about 9 years ago | (#13530820)

Can you imagine what being shat upon by one of these would be like?

Yes.

You can mail me back for her phone number, if you really want.

Re:Messy (3, Funny)

Andy_R (114137) | about 9 years ago | (#13530835)

A Spitfire can drop a 500lb bomb. I think I just worked out why the article picked such a strange comparison...

I may be wrong here (1, Interesting)

FidelCatsro (861135) | about 9 years ago | (#13530580)

But dinosaurs are not reptiles , are they ?
I had thought they were most closely related to birds
If I am right then which is it ?
A Dinosaur or a Reptile

Re:I may be wrong here (2, Informative)

konmem (628046) | about 9 years ago | (#13530611)

This may not make any difference, but pterosaurs were not actually dinosaurs (they are Archosaurs). They are closely related however. c.f. http://www.projectexploration.org/news_121803.htm [projectexploration.org] ,

"Pterosaurs are close cousins of the dinosaurs but had a very different look and lifestyle. Their bodies were covered by hair-like structures that arose independently from the hair we know today on mammals,"

Re:I may be wrong here (3, Informative)

masklinn (823351) | about 9 years ago | (#13530625)

They are reptiles, related to dinosaurs but not considered dinosaurs themselves, and have no close relationship to birds.

Birds-related dinosaurs were small theropods (bipedal carnivorous, Tyranosorus Rex and Velociraptor are theropods for example, but not from the line that led to birds)

Re:I may be wrong here (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | about 9 years ago | (#13530641)

thanks (to you and the post above) for clearing that one up for me , The article was rather light on details regarding this.
I do remember back when i was in school , being taught that Pterosaurs were classified as dinosaurs .
It is fascinating though , discovering more links in the common ancestry of animals

Re:I may be wrong here (2, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 9 years ago | (#13530713)

Yeah, they're like giant chicks [slashdot.org]

Re:I may be wrong here (1)

crashfrog (126007) | about 9 years ago | (#13530817)

Dinosaurs are not reptiles; they are dinosaurs. Unless you're willing to classify birds as reptiles as well, there's really no reason to classify dinosaurs as reptiles.

"Reptile" isn't really a classification that taxonomists really use, these days - it's not monophyletic.

Moder-degenration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530821)

? why on earth was it modified down for asking a question ?
Especially since it is moderated in such a cowardly way (Over-rated is immune to M2) .We learn by asking questions , you don't try and hide them .

  Mod this flame-bait if you please ,though it is not a troll as its a genuine belief
The people who moderated down the GP are idiots.

you are all educated stupid (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530581)

this clearly contradicts the bible and can't possibly be true

Re:you are all educated stupid (1)

rqqrtnb (753156) | about 9 years ago | (#13530593)

Ah yes. Surprising that the bible thumpers hadn't been out in force decrying these Satan placed hoaxes. Idiots.

By the way, Noah used the wings of one of these beasts as a sail on the ark.

Re:you are all educated stupid (1)

masklinn (823351) | about 9 years ago | (#13530630)

Hey, check that, an 18-meters wingspan irony whooshing above your head !

Irony? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13530693)

And here I was thinking it was sarcasm...

true flight (1)

a302b (585285) | about 9 years ago | (#13530628)

Yes its true that they had large wingspans. But I don't know if a comparison to a Spitfire is quite accurate. I mean, are we sure that pterasaurs were actually able to fly or did they just have advanced gliding abilities? In that case it would be more comparable to an ultralight, or a very large handglider. ;-)

It's very likely they didn't fly upwards at all (1)

marat (180984) | about 9 years ago | (#13530665)

You don't need any energy to glide, so you just climb (however slow) some high cliff and wait for someone looking tasty enough to take a walk down there. You only need to take off from land if someone wants to taste you, but with 18 meter wingspan you don't have many natural enemies.

Extrapolating to an absurdity. (1, Troll)

Circlotron (764156) | about 9 years ago | (#13530675)

From the article we read - "Only fragments of wing bones have been discovered", and yet later we read "Pterosaurs could walk on four legs using the "knuckles" of their hands." They did not find any evidence that they even *had* legs yet they make these bold and "authorative" statements that are for the most part based on nothing more than imagination. It's just like in the way distant future someone finding a single spark plug and claiming to be able to describe your complete car that it came from, including the colour of the paint. It's good to dig up these old bones and stuff and try to reconstruct creatures from long ago - providing you have a reasonable percentage of the pieces of the jigsaw, but to make assertions about parts you haven't even remotely got is not very scientific.

Re:Extrapolating to an absurdity. (4, Informative)

ptomblin (1378) | about 9 years ago | (#13530718)

It is you who are being absurd.

Yes, they've only found fragments of wing bones of these very large ones. But those fragments are exactly like the wing bones of smaller pterosaurs which they already have complete skeletons for, only larger. The statement about legs and knuckles is based on more complete skeletons from smaller specimens.

Read more about them... (2, Informative)

janneand (608740) | about 9 years ago | (#13530700)

here [wikipedia.org]

Must be time to promote another Dinosaur Product (4, Interesting)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | about 9 years ago | (#13530710)

Its well known that press releases like this get sent out during the times at which a movie, tv show, or book are to be released.

In previous famouns anounced dinosaur discoveries, the dino's had already been well known among the reasearch community however the public hasnt heard of them so for films like Jurrasic Park 3, they anounced the dinosaur that is bigger than a Trex. Also back a year ago, they also anounced another dinosaur that just so happened to be during the release of a dinosaur mass marketed product (cant remember which though unforuntately)

There was a guy on NPR that explained this marketing strategy, as the expert dinosaur consultant on Jurrasic Park, he said Universal asked him to old back on announcing discoveries publically to coincide with all 3 of the Jurrasic Park films.

Sleeping in the future tents (2, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 9 years ago | (#13530733)

they left no descendants and we don't know quite what their closest relative was.

That's never stopped the "Bank of Nigeria" from sending me email about lost fortunes from unknown relatives before. Either that or the wife or daughter of the late President Pterosaur will be contacting me shortly.

Lobbyism? (1)

furukama (215935) | about 9 years ago | (#13530751)

One of the two researchers involved is called "Dino Frey". What else to expect than good news about them good old flying reptiles?

Enough! When will we have Jurassic Park? (1)

blankoboy (719577) | about 9 years ago | (#13530800)

I'm getting bored of these stories of creatures from long ago. Get to work on a real Jurassic Park already!

Glamorizing news, /. way (1)

karvalo (246244) | about 9 years ago | (#13530809)

The title says "Flying Reptile The Size of A Small Airplane". What's wrong in picking an appropriate and representative headline. The NewZeland Herald title "Flying dinosaur biggest airborne animal" was more apt.
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