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November 21, 2007

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The New York City High School Math Teacher

Feel better - I have a nasty catarrh and the prospect of extended baking in the PM. And the sponge isn't fermenting yet. Oy.

I love the fact that, in an informal survey of my students, cabrito wins out over turkey. Happy Thanksgiving.

Will Baird

Did I know pterosaurs had hair? hmmm. What do you think? ;)

Actually, I recommend Unwin's book on them. It's quite good. One of the many nifty tidbits out of it was that they've deduced that pterosaurs were ready to fly right out of the egg and that many of the fossils found up in Germany that were thought to be separate species turn out to be just different ages for the same one. The implications of what this might mean for parenting are pretty big: the classic view of the pteranodon returning with something to the nest to feed its chicks is probably all wrong.

Pterosaurs were definitely not birds and they seem to be something rather unique behaviorally and physiologically.

Which is just pretty darned kewl. too bad none survived the KT. Alas.

Bernard Guerrero

Will,

What's the best theory at the moment on why the birds made it and the Pterosaurs didn't?

Will Baird

oh gosh, glad I decided to go back and look for this thread. Sorry about the late post, Bernard.

It appears to be size. Or as I have kidnapped from Darren Naish, metabolic requirements: the pterosaurs needed more nutrition than could be found at the KT Boundary because they were so big. It looks like the birds captured all the small flier niches as far as we can tell from the pterosaurs. By the KT Extinction, as I understand, the pterosaurs were only the bigguns and they starved after the fact.

For a long time, it was thought that the requirements were to be smaller than a certain size to survive the KT. That isn't the case. There were VERY large terrestrial crocodilians - as well as the water going variety - that seem to have survived that violate the size limitation. If you realize that crocs, even possibly terrstrial ones, require less food than a smaller warm blooded animal, it starts making sense.

Tangentially, the funny part is that if Unwin is right, the pterosaurs were actually even better fliers than birds, energy efficiency wise. That makes you wonder why the birds captured the smaller flier niches from the pterosaurs. WAG: birds are better walkers than the pterosaurs ever were.

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