Paleontologists have discovered more than 200 fossilized pterosaur eggs at a site in northwest China. The badysis of this largest collection of pterosaur eggs that has been 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.
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Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the dinosaur era. They lived 225 million years ago and became extinct along with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
So far, only a handful of Pterosaur eggs have been found and badyzed. It was even only in 2004 that scientists confirmed that the flying reptiles laid eggs. That's why the early life of the pterosaurs was always a mystery.
Recently, researchers have discovered hundreds of well-preserved fossilized eggs within the sandstone block in the city of Hami, northwest China. These fossilized eggs could provide a new insight into the development and nesting habits of pterosaurs, including whether pterosaurs could fly from birth.
"Given that these are extremely fragile fossils, we were 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 paleontologists led by Xiaolin Wang have now used computerized tomography to examine pterosaur eggs with greater detail than ever. The scan revealed that the 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 partial wing, cranial bones and lower jaw.
The thigh bones that remain intact suggest that the babies were able to walk almost from birth. the structure that supports the muscles of the thorax, which are necessary for flight, did not develop during the embryonic stage. It means that newborns probably could not fly.
"This shows that when pterosaurs are born d, they could walk but not fly," Kellner said. "They needed their parents, this is one of the biggest discoveries we've made."
The badysis also reveals that they were nested as a group.