Two Extinct Flying Reptiles Compared: One Was A Glider, The Other A Parachutist

By | July 17, 2008

Archaeopteryx is famous as the world’s oldest bird, but reptiles were flying about some 50 million years earlier than that (225 million years ago), even before large dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

A new study of extinct reptiles called kuehneosaurs, by scientists from the University of Bristol, England, shows that these early flyers used extraordinary extensions of their ribs to form large gliding surfaces on the side of the body.

Kuehneosaurs, up to 70 centimetres (two feet) long, were first found in the 1950s in an ancient cave system near Bristol. Their lateral ‘wings’ were always assumed to be some form of flying adaptation, but their aerodynamic capability had never been studied before.

Koen Stein, who did the work while a student studying for an MSc in palaeobiology at Bristol University, has shown that of the of the two genera found in Britain, Kuehneosuchus was a glider (it has elongate ‘wings’), while Kuehneosaurus, with much shorter ‘wings’, was a parachutist. As the two forms are so alike in other respects, it is possible that they are males and females of the same animal. – more on scidaily

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