Phenomena

How Did Pterosaurs Fly?

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One of my favorite aspects of fluid dynamics is how well it pairs with so many other fields, from mathematics and space exploration to biology, medicine, and even paleontology. That last field is key to today’s question, namely: how did a prehistoric reptile the size of an F-16 manage to fly?

As Joe’s video describes, many factors went into Quetzalcoatlus’ flight. The pterosaur had strong but hollow bones to save on weight while anchoring flight muscles. Its wing shape mimicked an airfoil’s. And, finally, it overcame the challenge of taking off by using both its front and hind limbs to leap off the ground, much like modern bats do.

There’s no doubt that it would be stunning (and probably terrifying!) to see these creatures in action. But you may wonder how scientists piece together these animals from incomplete fossils. Don’t worry! There’s a video for that question, too. (Video and image credit: It’s Okay to Be Smart; see also the video’s references)

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