Sunday, June 07, 2009

Everything Pterosaurs

With ART Evolved's next gallery - Pterosaurs - coming up fast (opens July 1st!), I have been reading tons and learning a lot about these wonderful animals. Anatomy, musculature, behavior, locomotion... and reproduction. Not sex per say, but birth and babies!

With the wonderful discussion on pterosaur locomotion and wing attachment here on ART Evolved and through searching reliable sites on the net, such as Pterosaur Net, I found answers to few of my questions: Did pterosaurs lay eggs? Yes, pterosaur eggs were found in 2004. Hard or soft shelled eggs? Soft, like those of turtles and crocodiles. Were parents involved in raising their babies? Maybe not, as pterosaur babies hatch with a mostly formed bones and wings, so it could walk and maybe fly upon hatching. Thus having no need for parents to bring them food, etc.

But I have a few unanswered questions that maybe a few of you in the palaeological community might help me out and make my art better!
  1. How many eggs/babies did pterosaurs have each season?
  2. How well could baby pterosaurs fly?
  3. What would baby pterosaurs eat? (I am specifically interested in azhdarchids)

As for my piece, here are quick sketches of four ideas I had. I am pulled toward the last one:

The last sketch shows an azhdarchid feeding its child. Since sketching it, I'm leaning more towards the parent NOT being so important in baby pterosaur lives. So I developed the next sketch:A mother azhdarchid leaves her nest, while three babies pop out of the vegetation covering their eggs and stretch their wings. I really love Mark Witton's quadruped interpretation of these huge pterosaurs, so this painting will be an homage to his style!

Any help making this reconstruction more accurate would be greatly appreciated.


Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

The baby pterosaurs look cute! When I was a kid I used to draw comic strips featuring a pteranodon family that included 3 babies. I had no idea about the number of babies a pteranodon could rise by then.
I have some problems deciding if I prefer the fourth or fifth one, I may want to know which one is scientificaly more "accurate" though.

Nima said...

Those are a lot of good questions!

Especially at what age baby pterosaurs could fly. They didn't have feathers so they didn't need to "fledge"... though I'd guess their wings took a while to grow proportionally large enough for flight... fitting long-segmented wings in an egg is by no means easy.

Number of babies? No clue. Probably not all that many unless thy parents didn't nest. Sort of like that age-old theory that sauropods didn't build nests and just laid eggs in aimless lines (though they DID build nests, as recent finds in Patagonia showed... and the "egg lines" have mysteriously failed to materialize). I'd say keep it less than seven, for simplicity's sake (and don't forget those poor parents... so many beaks to feed.)

I'm not sure what the babies ate, though it probably wasn't each other. Pteranodon was a fisher, but as for those landlubber Azdarchids.... baby dinosaurs, lizards, mammals, and even snakes were all fair game (the first snakes, if I recall, evolved from lizards during the Cretaceous).

Peter Bond said...

Thanks Dinorider! I think I'll go with three babies, with the idea that more could be hatching out of the eggs within the vegetation mound.

Nima - Really interesting stuff man, thanks! I am surprised that the babies/hatchings didn't have "pterosaur fuzz" - should I show them "naked and hairless?"

I think I'm going to abandon the "parents weren't involved in parenting" and have a huge azdarchid mom bringing food to her babies. Thanks for then answers!

Zach said...

Now hold on a second. There are TWO pterosaur eggs known to science, and they both contain scrambled embryos. No preservation of fuzz, but I don't think fuzz would impress very well on the surrounding sediment. Adults were fuzzy, I'll bet my bottom dollar that babies were, too.

And given the limb proportions of baby pterosaurs, they were probably able to fly right out of the nest, with little to no parental involvement.

I'm so freaking late on this comment. ;-)