Pterosaur Eggs Reveal The Early Life Of Flying Reptiles

Posted: Dec 3 2017, 10:33am CST | by , Updated: Dec 3 2017, 10:35am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Pterosaur Eggs Reveal the Early Life of Flying Reptiles
Credit: Alexander Kellner

Hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs have been recovered from a Chinese site

Paleontologists have discovered more than 200 fossilized pterosaur eggs at a site in northwestern China. The analysis of this largest pterosaur eggs collection ever found has shown that pterosaurs could not fly shortly after hatching. They had underdeveloped bones and needed more care from their parents than previously thought.

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles from the time of the dinosaurs. They lived around 225 million years ago and went extinct along with the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.

Until now, only a handful of Pterosaur eggs have been found and analyzed. Even it was only in 2004 that scientists confirmed that flying reptiles laid eggs. That’s why the early life of pterosaurs always remained a mystery.

Recently, researchers have discovered hundreds of well-preserved fossilized eggs inside sandstone block in northwestern China's Hami City. These fossilized eggs could provide new insight into the development and nesting habits of pterosaurs, including whether pterosaur babies could fly right from the birth.

“Since these are extremely fragile fossils, we were very surprised to find so many in the same place," said Brazilian paleontologist Alexander Kellner.

"Because of this discovery, we can talk about the behavior of these animals for the first time."

A combined team of Chinese and Brazilian palaeontologists led by Xiaolin Wang have now used CT scans to examine pterosaur eggs in greater detail than ever before. Scanning revealed that eggs contained the remains of embryos at various stages of development. None of them had a complete set of pterosaur bones. However one egg contained an embryo with a partial wing, cranial bones and a lower jaw.

Thigh bones that remain intact suggest that babies were able walk almost from birth. However, structure supporting the chest muscles, which are necessary for flight, were underdeveloped during the embryonic stage. It means that newborns were likely not able to fly.

"This shows that when pterosaurs hatched, they could walk but not fly," said Kellner. “They needed their parents. This is one of the biggest discoveries we have made."

The analysis also reveals that they were nested as a group.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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