Biomecânica do pterossauro pteroide

quarta-feira, fevereiro 24, 2010

Biomechanics of the unique pterosaur pteroid

Colin Palmer1,* and Gareth J. Dyke2

-Author Affiliations

1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK

2School of Biology and Environmental Sciences, University College Dublin,Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

*Author for correspondence (


Pterosaurs, flying reptiles from the Mesozoic, had wing membranes that were supported by their arm bones and a super-elongate fourth finger. Associated with the wing, pterosaurs also possessed a unique wrist bone—the pteroid—that functioned to support the forward part of the membrane in front of the leading edge, the propatagium. Pteroid shape varies across pterosaurs and reconstructions of its orientation vary (projecting anteriorly to the wing leading edge or medially, lying alongside it) and imply differences in the way that pterosaurs controlled their wings. Here we show, using biomechanical analysis and considerations of aerodynamic efficiency of a representative ornithocheirid pterosaur, that an anteriorly orientated pteroid is highly unlikely. Unless these pterosaurs only flew steadily and had very low body masses, their pteroids would have been likely to break if orientated anteriorly; the degree of movement required for a forward orientation would have introduced extreme membrane strains and required impractical tensioning in the propatagium membrane. This result can be generalized for other pterodactyloid pterosaurs because the resultant geometry of an anteriorly orientated pteroid would have reduced the aerodynamic performance of all wings and required the same impractical properties in the propatagium membrane. We demonstrate quantitatively that the more traditional reconstruction of a medially orientated pteroid was much more stable both structurally and aerodynamically, reflecting likely life position.

flight     wing membrane    ornithocheirids    Coloborhynchus    Anhanguera    aerodynamics


Received October 17, 2009.
Accepted November 17, 2009.

© 2009 The Royal Society