August 6, 2009

Researchers Shed Light On Pterodactyl Secrets

The fossil of a unique dinosaur was discovered on Wednesday in China.

The fossil of the pterosaur, the first identified flying vertebrate, indicates that the creatures had intricate wing fibers that allowed them to fly with the accuracy and power of birds.

The team of Brazilian, German, Chinese and British researchers supports the hypothesis that the pterosaur, or pterodactyl, soared the skies 220 million years ago.

A new method that includes pointing ultra-violet rays on the fossil dug up in Inner Mongolia revealed a comprehensive observation of the tissue in the pterosaur's wing, researchers announced at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro.

They also discovered fibers that were unlike any other creature's that covered the body of the fossil and a section of its wings.

The fine hair may have provided body temperature control and indicates that the flying creatures were warm-blooded, said Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at Brazil's National Museum in Rio.

"They are different from other furs we find in mammals and they provide us another hint that these animals were able to control their body temperature, they were hot-blooded animals," Kellner told Reuters News.

"This is of great importance to understanding how the pterosaur functioned."

The UV review of the fossil also indicated that the critter had layers of fibers to control its wings, instead of just one as formerly thought. Researchers infer from this that it had much more control over its flight than other animals.

The pterosaurs, which vary from undersized to one the biggest creatures that have ever flown, died off about 65 million years ago, during the mass extinction of dinosaurs.

Image Courtesy Mark Witton and Darren Naish - Wikipedia