Saturday, 16 December, 2017

Hundreds Of Eggs From Ancient Flying Reptile Are Found In China

Prehistoric egg hoard helps reveal the early life of flying reptiles Prehistoric egg hoard helps reveal the early life of flying reptiles
Frank Williams | 03 December, 2017, 05:37

About 215 eggs of the pterosaur, which flew and have jagged teeth, were found in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China.

One of the young pterosaurs was estimated to be "at least two years old and still growing at the time of its death, supporting the growing body of evidence that pterosaurs had long incubation periods".

Along with bats and birds, pterosaurs are the only vertebrates to truly fly. A flood might have carried the eggs into a nearby lake where they piled up and fossilized, the researchers said. Sixteen of those eggs have embryonic remains of the pterosaur species Hamipterus tianshanensis, the researchers said in findings released today in Science.

"Their external surface shows cracking and crazing, and all are deformed to a certain extent, which indicate their pliable nature", they said.

Now this is one of them: A group of researchers have discovered hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs in northwestern China and this might provide us a completely new perspective in our understanding of flying reptiles. Some of the eggs contain the most detailed pterosaur embryos ever found. This includes the species in question, Hamipterus tianshanensis, which Kellner, Wang and a team of their colleagues discovered in 2014.

Egypt's foreign minister says no restrictions on presidential hopeful
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The areas for muscle attachment of important flight muscles were either small or nonexistent in the unhatched animals, while the legs appeared to be more complete. In recent years, palaeontologists discovered five eggs from China and one egg from Argentina.

"Our findings further demonstrate the exceptional conditions necessary for the preservation of such fragile material and can explain the notable paucity of pterosaur eggs and embryos in the paleontological record compared to other reptiles, because the preservation potential of soft-shelled specimens is regarded as very poor", said co-author Dr. JIANG Shunxing of the IVPP. There may be even more of them, but scientists haven't had time to properly analyze all the eggs, and CT scans are only partially useful. This is likely why the investigators found the eggs in sandstone sediments. It likely ate fish and lived in dry, sandy environments, where it buried its eggs on the shores of lakes and rivers (thus fitting with the idea of flowing water washing the eggs away).

Two of the newfound pterosaur eggs.

Furthermore, he said, bone shape and structure are integral to strength, which means it's possible for a comparatively underdeveloped bone to in fact be stronger than one that is seemingly more developed. This can be explained by several factors, including the presence of embryos in distinct embryological stages, differential preservation of bones, and loss of elements during transport and burial, with part of the egg content expelled. The lack of other skull bones suggests the skull developed later than other bones in the skeleton. Perhaps the largest embryos the team found weren't quite ready to hatch, which would throw off the developmental time line.

"I think they have a good argument, [and] it's an interesting result", says University of Southern California paleontologist Mike Habib, an expert on reconstructing how pterosaurs moved. "So I think these new embryonic finds are really exciting because with these, we can begin to reconstruct the embryonic development of pterosaurs inside the egg".

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