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Titans of the skies: azhdarchid pterosaurs

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Pterosaurs, the flying reptiles of the Mesozoic, often play second fiddle in popularity to their contemporaries, the dinosaurs. Such treatment conceals the remarkable diversity and biology of this group: not only were pterosaurs the first vertebrates to achieve powered flight, but they also existed for 160 million years—longer than any other flying vertebrates. Named after the Uzbek mythical dragon ‘azhdarkho’, the Azhdarchidae are among the most enigmatic of all pterosaurs. As with most pterosaurs, azhdarchid remains are rare, and their fossil record is largely represented by isolated bones or incomplete skeletons. Despite the collection of azhdarchid fossils over the last 100 years, recognition of these pterosaurs as a distinct group was not achieved until relatively recently. It is now clear that the azhdarchids were a highly successful group that probably first appeared in the Early Cretaceous, gradually spreading across the globe until the latest Cretaceous when they, as one of the last remaining groups of pterosaurs, became extinct. Although most notable for achieving wingspans comparable with light aircraft, other aspects of azhdarchid morphology and ecology make them not just aberrant animals but also unusual pterosaurs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalGeology Today
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007

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