Pterosaurs, flying reptiles that lived from the Late Triassic until the end of the Cretaceous Period, are known from their fossilized skeletons and their footprints, which show that at least some of the pterodactyloid pterosaurs walked on all four limbs. Now, one rare set of footprints tells us how these pterosaurs landed on the ground. Kevin Padian, curator at the UCMP and professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, just published a paper on a pterosaur landing trackway, which his co-authors discovered at a Late Jurassic site called “Pterosaur Beach” in southwestern France.
The tracks show that the pterosaur landed feet-first and then dragged its claws before walking off using all four limbs. This is the first set of tracks that show a pterosaur landing. There are still no tracks that show the takeoff.
The way that the pterosaur landed suggests quite strongly that it flapped its wings in order to stall before landing. This would fit with our understanding that pterosaurs were very strong, active fliers. To learn more, read the paper by Kevin and his colleagues in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. There are some great articles about the discovery in the following publications:
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