Undergraduate Research & Mentoring Program

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Pterosauria, Pterosauria -- Aerodynamics -- Effect on evolution


Early pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to achieve powered flight, and remained small-to-medium sized from the Triassic Period to the end of the Jurassic Period. During that interval, lasting from 210 million years ago to 66 million years ago, pterosaurs underwent a notable changes at the end of the Jurassic Period and through the Cretaceous Period. They were abruptly replaced by much larger forms, characterized by great size and peculiar head ornamentation, among other unique and notable morphological features. While many different explanations theorize why and how the features of the pterosaurs changed over the Cretaceous Period, the aerodynamic influences are neglected and poorly documented.

The motivation of this study is the sudden, rapid transition towards the end of the Jurassic Period from small forms to large forms and the appearance of large pterosaurs coincided with the appearance of birds. This work investigates the potential aerodynamic value of specific pterosaur features and the adaptive role they may have played in the diversity and success of the group. This work will move forward with the hope of discovering new insights to this great, ancient mystery.

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