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.

References
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
NEWS
The Tail of Man’s Supposed Ancestors
Although it has been known for decades and despite insistence to the contrary from the evolutionary community, man—Homo sapiens—has never...

NEWS
When Day Meets Night—A Total Success!
The skies cleared above North Texas on Monday, April 8, for a spectacular view of the 2024 Great American Solar Eclipse. Hundreds of guests joined...

NEWS
The Sun and Moon—Designed for Eclipses
Before discovering thousands of planets in other solar systems, scientists tended to assume that other solar systems would be very similar to our own....

NEWS
Let ICR Help You Prepare for the Great American Solar Eclipse!
On Monday, April 8th, the moon will move directly between the earth and the sun, resulting in a total solar eclipse visible in northern Mexico, much...

NEWS
Total Eclipse on April 8th
“You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that...

CREATION PODCAST
Dismantling Evolution One Gear At A Time! | The Creation Podcast:...
The human body is a marvel of complexity and the more we learn about it, the more miraculous our existence becomes! Can evolution explain the...

NEWS
April 2024 ICR Wallpaper
"He appointed the moon for seasons; The sun knows its going down." (Psalm 104:19 NKJV) ICR April 2024 wallpaper is now available...

NEWS
Creation's Easter Message
While many Christians still consider the creation doctrine a fringe issue, a proper understanding of the Christian message finds creation at its core...

NEWS
ICR Veteran Don Barber Retires
Don Barber   After 34 years with the Institute for Creation Research, Director of Enterprise Technology Don Barber will retire...

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
The Sanctity of Life | Creation.Live Podcast: Episode 23
Abortion is a big issue culturally and in the church. How can believers love our neighbors and act as the hands and feet of Christ when it comes...