How a Giraffe-Size Dinosaur Managed to Fly

16-foot creatures could traverse continents: scientists
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Nov 15, 2010 11:50 AM CST
This undated handout illustration provided by The Johns Hopkins University shows the massive 30-foot wingspan of the toothless pteranodon, left, was surpassed by that of Hatzegopteryx pterosaur.   (AP Photo/Johns Hopkins University, Mark Witton)
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(Newser) – Scientists think they’ve finally figured out how a dinosaur the size of a giraffe was able to soar through the air: It used its huge wings to pole-vault, the Daily Mail reports. Researchers from the UK and US say their theory trumps longstanding claims that pterosaurs couldn’t possibly fly. That belief stemmed from the fact that the majority of birds run to pick up speed, jumping then flapping like mad—a maneuver the massive pterosaur couldn't perform. But these anatomically unique animals had "a distinctly different skeletal structure, wing proportions, and muscle mass," says one of the palaeontologists behind the discovery.

The reptiles pushed off using their arms and legs and swung over their wings, the scientists say in the journal PLoS ONE. After taking off, pterosaurs—which were likely some 16 feet tall--could fly across continents, the researchers assert. "The size of the flight muscles in a giant pterosaur would be incredible": up to 110 pounds, accounting "for 20% of the animal's total mass."

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