Pterosaur Contours Look Engineered | The Institute for Creation Research
Pterosaur Contours Look Engineered
Flying reptiles once flew through ancient skies. Most of our knowledge of these fascinating animals, called pterosaurs, comes from their fossils. But how well-suited were they for flight? Details from one newly analyzed specimen upgrade our understanding of flight engineering in pterosaurs.

Publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, four scientists affiliated with institutions from four different countries used laser light to reveal new features on a pterosaur fossil. This fossil came from the same German limestone made famous by the Archaeopteryx fossils over a century ago.1

They used laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) on the pterosaur. This technique reveals different materials that make up a fossil. For example, limestone and bone fluoresce at different wavelengths in response to the same laser light. Like other fossils described in scientific literature, this one showed cream-colored fluorescence from bone tissue and blue-black from the surrounding limestone. But a third color indicated another substance that led to a discovery.

Pterosaur shoulder muscles fluoresced pink under LSF. The team did no chemical investigation into the nature of the soft tissues that they imaged. Prior studies have detected feather proteins in Solnhofen bird fossils, so it stands to reason that muscle remnants still rest inside this stone-encased carcass.2

Birds, bats, and airplanes use smoothing contours where the wing attaches to the body. Birds round this area using feathers, bats streamline it with fur, and most airplanes use shaped metal. It even has a name: the wing root fairing. The pterosaur study authors noted that the pterosaur shoulder musculature took the same aerodynamic shape. They wrote,

We interpret the imaged soft tissue making up the fairing as being primarily composed of skeletal muscle because the forewing (brachium) muscle also shows pink fluorescence. The fairing streamlined the contours of the wing root created by the brachium musculature bulging outside the planar contour of the wing membrane.1

They further wrote that “not all shapes change airflow in a desirable way,” and “For manufactured aircraft, engineers work to minimize drag effects by creating streamlined aerodynamic profiles, including the addition of aerodynamic ‘fairings’ to smooth shapes and joints on the aircraft.”1

This means that the fairing must have a specified shape for it to reduce drag at the point where the wings connect to the body. They found that the shape of these pterosaur muscles matched the specified shape of fairings in other well-engineered flyers. Who, then, was the engineer who worked to minimize drag effects by creating a streamlined profile for pterosaurs?

Without this muscular fairing, bulging pterosaur shoulder bones would have dragged through the air, making flight clunky or perhaps impossible. Instead, these laser-revealed muscles show yet another specification already in place for flight—as though an Engineer put it there in the beginning.

1. Pittman, M. et al. 2021. Pterosaurs evolved a muscular wing–body junction providing multifaceted flight performance benefits: Advanced aerodynamic smoothing, sophisticated wing root control, and wing force generation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118 (44): e2107631118.
2. Bergmann, U. et al. 2010. Archaeopteryx feathers and bone chemistry fully revealed via synchrotron imaging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (20): 9060-9065.

Stage Image Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

*Dr. Brian Thomas is Research Scientist at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool.
The Latest
Fossil Footprints Fit Flood Ice-Age Model
Anthropologists Thomas Urban (Cornell University) and Daron Duke (Far Western Anthropological Research Group) recently found preserved human footprints...

Deep-Sea Lobster Microbiome
Research continues regarding complex and amazing microbiomes found on or within a variety of creatures.1 The microbiome is a microbial community...

"Massively Exciting" Fossil Find
Now this is exciting: “Geologists have found the fossil of the earliest known animal predator. The 560-million-year-old specimen is the first of...

Copulation Didn't Kill the Frogs, the Flood Did
Evolutionary scientists recently studied 168 frog fossils from central Germany, concluding that the frogs all drowned while aggressively mating. They claim...

What Can We Learn From Fossils? | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
Is evolution seen in the fossil record? Why are fossilized terrestrial animals found buried with marine creatures? What conditions were needed to form...

Be Not Deceived: Spiritually Train to Overcome Secular Science...
Thorough instruction and discipline are the hallmark qualities of a strong military training program. Well-trained soldiers can think on their feet, adapt...

Jurassic World: Dominion - Fun Movie, Bad Science | Creation.Live...
Covered in feathers, running faster than cars, and living in cold climates...these are just a few of the ideas introduced in Jurassic World: Dominion....

CET Model in Plants Is Clearly Seen
Plant scientists have known for decades that plants aren’t just static entities. The half-million or more species of plants in the world display...

Half-Billion-Year-Old Fossil Brains?
Once again, a recent and remarkable fossil discovery has been made challenging evolutionary theory. A strange arthropod (i.e. a radiodont) has been found...

Stars Defy Big Bang
Recent measurements by astronomers at the University of Cologne (Germany) and Masaryk University (Brno, or the Czech Republic) have shown that a fast-moving...