Pterosaur Fuzz May Have Boosted Flying Finesse
Fibers on a well-preserved pterosaur from Mongolia are unlike anything seen before. Scientists wonder if it gave the animals better control in the air. National Geographic News said the hairlike fibers cover the whole body and part of the wings of Jeholopterus ninchengensis. Normally, such fine details are not preserved in fossils. “It must have been rapidly buried after it died, perhaps by a river or maybe inside a lake,” said Alexander Kellner [Rio di Janeiro National Museum]. “Otherwise its soft tissue would have rotted away quickly and not been preserved.”
It’s possible the fibers helped with temperature control, or functioned as elastic struts or muscle. Kellner said that whatever they were, the fibers show that pterosaur wings were “much more complex than we thought.” In addition, scientists are speculating that the duck-sized flyer was able to climb trees.
The trend in evolutionary explanation is for the subject matter to become more complex, and the storytelling to become more convoluted.