The Mesozoic giant pterosaurs had exceptionally light bones. Her cervical vertebrae were almost completely hollow, but thanks to the bony supports they were still flexible. This airy yet resistant structure allowed pyrosaurs to have an extremely long neck. Researchers led by David Martell of the University of Portsmouth report in the journal iScience..
Pterosaurs produced the largest flying animals that ever lived. The most powerful specimens had wings up to twelve meters in length and reached the dimensions of a small plane. Standing on the ground, it was as tall as today’s giraffes; They would have risen over a person by more than ten feet. Only your body mass, which is the largest, can be estimated He probably weighed about 250 kilograms. However, they can fly.
What was particularly striking in the animals was their neck, which can be up to two and a half meters long, and therefore longer than the neck of giraffes. And on top of it sat a huge skull with a huge beak. With the neck, it’s often three-quarters of the length of the entire body. Researchers have long wondered what this body looks like It was biomechanically possible After all, you must have been under tremendous stress, especially when you are hunting animals or gliding through the air. And how did pterosaurs remain relatively light and flyable despite their enormous dimensions?
Martell’s team has now examined a fossil cervical vertebra from pterosaurs from the Moroccan-Algerian border region – found in ancient river sediments that contain many of these animal remains. It is possible that the fossil belonged to the pterosaur of the genus Anqa It was so well preserved that the researchers were able to use tomography to determine its internal structure with millimeter accuracy. Showed an unusual structure. The cervical vertebra is tubularly elongated, about six centimeters in diameter and a millimeter thin wall. A second, narrow-walled, bony tube that contains the spinal cord passes through it. Thin trabeculae, which are barely a millimeter thicker and tidy like bike wheels, connect the two tubes to each other.
Using computer models, the researchers calculated that the whole thing was viable. The result: just a few trabeculae – 50 per vertebral body – made the structure 90 percent more resistant to torsional loads. Addition of more trabeculae did not yield any gains in stability. Although the bone was almost completely hollow, it was able to withstand high loads thanks to its internal supports. “This structure appears […] It eliminated many biomechanical problems and enabled the animals to carry massive heads – greater than 1.5 meters – on longer necks than giraffes today and are still able to fly actively, ”says Martell.
Bite weighs 13 kg
The accounts also say something about the maximum prey weight a pterosaur can catch and capture without breaking its neck. According to the equations, its mass could not exceed about 13 kilograms. However, this value is very uncertain, since it only takes into account the bearing capacity of the bones, and even that only with several simplifications. Nothing is known about the properties of the supporting muscles and connective tissue, as they have not been preserved.