Author Box
Articles Categories
All Categories
Articles Resources

Could Flying Reptiles Really Skim the Water to Catch Fish - The Evidence Reviewed

April 22, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 267

Could Pterosaurs really use Water Skimming Techniques to catch Fish?

The Pterosaurs are an extinct group of flying reptiles, sometimes mistakenly referred to as Pterodactyls. They evolved in the Triassic and dominated life in the air until the emergence of the birds some sixty million years later. The last of the Pterosaurs, some of which were the largest flying creatures known to science, died out at the very end of the age of reptiles, some sixty-five million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous geological period.

Many Pterosaurs were Fish-Eaters

Almost since the first Pterosaur fossils were studied closely; scientists have speculated about how good they were at flying and how these flying reptiles might have fed. Since many Pterosaur fossils have been found in coastal or marine deposits it is believed that many were piscivores (fish-eaters). The teeth in many primitive Pterodactyloids such as Criorhynchus and Rhamphorhynchoids like Eudimorphodon seem well suited for grabbing and holding slippery fish. The dentition supports the theory that these animals fed on fish, but how these animals actually captured fish remains a bit of a mystery.

How did Flying Reptiles Catch Fish?

It had been thought that some Pterosaurs used fishing techniques similar to the black skimmer (Rhynchops niger), a tern-like sea bird from the Americas. This bird skims the surface water of lakes and lagoons with its lower mandible ploughing through the water. When a small fish is detected the bill snaps shut.

The lower mandible is larger than the top part of the bill and the skull and jaws are quite robust, able to withstand the stresses of this type of feeding behaviour.

In the past, Pterosaurs were thought to be clumsy fliers, little able to do more than glide, but more recent studies have shown that these animals were accomplished fliers. For example, on the front of a Pterosaur's long wrist bones (carpus) there was a small bone that curved back towards the shoulder. This is called the pteroid bone and is unique to Pterosaurs. At first, palaeontologists thought this to be the atrophied remains of a digit but this extension of bone is now thought to have supported a smaller flight membrane in front of the arm. This smaller wing-like structure in front of the main wing would have helped control the flow of air over the wing, thus controlling speed and altitude. This supports the view that these animals were sophisticated fliers, very much at home in their aerial environment.

Results from a series of experiments carried out by scientists show that up to twenty percent more power is required for the animal to keep flying straight when the jaw is immersed in water. As the models skimmed the water in this way, they produced drag which compromised their ability to fly and demanded more muscle activity to keep them airborne. This need for increased power for this type of flight may have prevented flying reptiles from hunting in this way. This evidence, coupled with close studies of Pterosaur skulls and jaws which do not show the expected modifications required such as thicker bones to cope with the stresses of this type of foraging makes a number of palaeontologists doubt whether Pterosaurs fed by skimming for fish like the black skimmer.

The role of the Pterosaur Crest

Perhaps Pterosaurs used their relatively keen eyesight to spot prey in the surface water and then swooped down on it plucking the fish out of the water. Jerking the head downwards to permit the jaws to enter the water may provide one of the reasons why many Pterosaurs developed complicated crests. These crests could have acted as aerial stabilisers as well as display items for courtship and to intimidate rivals. The Rhamphorhynchoids had their heyday in the Jurassic but were replaced with the long-necked Pterodactyloids by the Cretaceous. Perhaps the longer necked Pterodactyloids had an advantage when feeding by plucking fish from the sea.

Recently scientists at the University of Reading (UK) led by a number of prominent palaeontologists have studied the proposed feeding habits of Pterosaurs. Using models of the jaws of Pterosaurs and a black skimmer, these scientists set up a series of experiments to test whether Pterosaurs could use their lower jaws to plough through water hunting for fish.

Solving the Mystery of How Flying Reptiles Fed

Further study and analysis is required to help scientists to determine how Pterosaurs fed, but as more and more remains of Pterosaurs are discovered so we may one day be able to solve this mystery.

One of the anomalies with birds like skimmers is that it is easy to get the wrong idea about how these bird feed. When they are featured in nature programmes they are often shown skimming the water. This is certainly a spectacular sight, but documentaries can be misleading. Black skimmers are just as likely to be seen feeding by wading and stabbing their bills into the water to catch fish, but as this is not as "photogenic" as their aerial acrobatics, it is rarely seen in photographs or television programmes

Everything Dinosaur is a company run by parents, teachers and real dinosaur experts. It specialises in developing educational dinosaur toys, models, clothing and games and strives to help young people learn more about science through their fascination with prehistoric animals. Many of the items featured on the Everything Dinosaur website http://everythingdinosaur.com/ have been designed and tested by the teachers and real dinosaur experts in the company.

To learn more about the products and services we offer at Everything Dinosaur click on our website links.

Our aim is to help young people learn more about Earth sciences through their fascination with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. Team members are happy to provide advice and support supplying free quizzes, drawing materials, puzzles, games even recipes for dinosaur themed biscuits and birthday cakes. With something like 600 products on line including dinosaur party supplies, Everything Dinosaur http://everythingdinosaur.com/ has built up a strong reputation assisting parents, guardians and fellow teachers, helping young people to learn more about science through creative play.

Source: EzineArticles
Was this Helpful ?

 
0
 
0
 
Rate this Article
 vote(s)
Feedback
Print
Re-Publish

Article Tags:

Flying Reptiles

,

Palaeontology

,

Pterosaurs

,

Fossils

,

Dinosaurs

,

Dinosaur Toys

,

Pterosaur Models

For gaining entrance in coveted fields in a reputed University, the entrance examinations are the gateway. The purpose of these entrance examinations is to test the potential of a candidate and how

By: Sarkariexam l Reference & Education > Science l December 23, 2012 lViews: 519

Competition is increasing at an alarming level in every sphere. The students have to focus completely on their studies to ensure that they get admission in the line of their choice. What more, the

By: Sarkariexam l Reference & Education > Continuing Education l December 14, 2012 lViews: 1443

'How hard is a PhD'? Many PhD holders have been asked this question millions of times, but there is never any definite answer. We look at those who walk around proudly with a 'Doctor' title with

By: onlineedublog l Reference & Education > Continuing Education l November 11, 2012 lViews: 284

In this fast paced world which is sadly recession struck, it is indeed a good idea to work while acquiring further education. A master’s degree is obviously better than a bachelor’s in almost

By: onlineedublog l Reference & Education > Online Education l November 04, 2012 lViews: 262

An Online Degree Program in Finance is gaining popularity as it helps students to develop a lucrative career. It helps in a competitive business world. This has resulted in more number of students

By: Matthew l Reference & Education > Online Education l October 31, 2012 lViews: 288

Supporting justice is one of the reasons many people get into a career in the legal field. All-inclusive Online Associate’s Degree in Legal Studies assists many in the beginning stage of employment

By: Richard l Reference & Education > Online Education l October 26, 2012 lViews: 222

For gaining entrance in coveted fields in a reputed University, the entrance examinations are the gateway. The purpose of these entrance examinations is to test the potential of a candidate and how

By: Sarkariexaml Reference & Education > Sciencel December 23, 2012 lViews: 519

If you are looking for the top sonography schools in the United States, then you should put these on your list of schools that you are going to apply to. These sonography schools have been evaluated

By: Sheila M Neumannl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 23, 2012 lViews: 614

For most high school students health class is just another filler in their schedule where they can get an easy grade for showing up. This is because many teachers stick with a very "by the book"

By: Jill Nealonl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 22, 2012 lViews: 269

Microscopes are indispensable in laboratory rooms. With high quality microscopes, you can perform a range of diagnostic procedures; you need to choose the best based on your requirement and budget.

By: Jeremy Linderl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 22, 2012 lViews: 214

A team of scientists based in Switzerland have used computer models comparing how dinosaurs grew from a hatchling into an adult with the growth rate of mammals to suggest that the dependence on

By: Mike Walleyl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 22, 2012 lViews: 283

Dinosaur model fans have an increasing array of Chinese dinosaurs to try to make replicas of. This part of the world has become a focus in recent years for palaeontologists as they unearth a number

By: Mike Walleyl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 22, 2012 lViews: 254

A team of scientists based in Switzerland have used computer models comparing how dinosaurs grew from a hatchling into an adult with the growth rate of mammals to suggest that the dependence on

By: Mike Walleyl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 22, 2012 lViews: 283

Dinosaur model fans have an increasing array of Chinese dinosaurs to try to make replicas of. This part of the world has become a focus in recent years for palaeontologists as they unearth a number

By: Mike Walleyl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 22, 2012 lViews: 254

A number of newspapers, journals and other media have featured a story over the last few days concerning the discovery of what are believed to be the largest dinosaur eggs ever discovered. Those

By: Mike Walleyl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 20, 2012 lViews: 181

The dinosaur fan and model collector's magazine, known as Prehistoric Times starts its next one hundred issues with an edition that balances the latest dinosaur replica news, fossil finds and

By: Mike Walleyl Book Reviews > Magazinesl April 18, 2012 lViews: 225

Very occasionally scientists discover a number of dinosaur fossils together, these can represent an accumulation of bodies, perhaps swept away in a flood event or a catastrophe suffered by a group of

By: Mike Walleyl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 17, 2012 lViews: 227

Greece may have its economic woes but it does have a rich geology and palaeontologists have discovered the remains of a number of prehistoric animals including the tusks of a giant prehistoric

By: Mike Walleyl Reference & Education > Sciencel April 17, 2012 lViews: 249

Discuss this Article

comments powered by Disqus