Giraffe-sized dinos pole-vaulted to fly

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LONDON - A giraffe-sized dinosaur, previously thought to be too heavy to fly, virtually pole-vaulted over its own wings to be airborne, scientists said.

Mark Witton, palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, UK and Michael Habib from Chatham University in the US studied how the giant pterosaurs could fly.

They said they had disproved claims that enormous prehistoric winged beasts could not fly, with new evidence showing how they managed to be airborne, according to the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

They found that the reptiles took off by using the powerful muscles of their legs and arms to push off from the ground, effectively pole-vaulting over their wings, reports the Daily Mail.

Once airborne, they could fly huge distances and even cross continents, the scientists claim.

Witton said: “Most birds take off either by running to pick up speed and jumping into the air before flapping wildly, or if they’re small enough, they may simply launch themselves into the air from a standstill.

“Previous theories suggested that giant pterosaurs were too big and heavy to perform either of these manoeuvres and therefore they would have remained on the ground.

“But when examining pterosaurs the bird analogy can be stretched too far.

“These creatures were not birds, they were flying reptiles with a distinctly different skeletal structure, wing proportions and muscle mass.

“They would have achieved flight in a completely different way to birds, and would have had a lower angle of take off and initial flight trajectory. The anatomy of these creatures is unique.”

Previous theories have asserted that giant pterosaurs could have been six metres tall, with a wingspan of up to 12 metres. But the researchers argue that five metres high with a 10 metre wingspan would have been more realistic.

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