Evolution and Palaeobiology of Pterosaurs
Pterosaurs were a peculiar group of Mesozoic vertebrates, which acquired the ability to fly in an original way, using a membrane attached to a single finger of the hand. Ever since the first description of a pterosaur skeleton in 1784, these remarkable animals have elicited much discussion and controversy among palaeontologists, and many basic questions about their origin, evolution and biology remain disputed. In the last few years, interest in pterosaurs has been revived by numerous discoveries of new and sometimes remarkably preserved specimens, which have enlarged and changed our picture of this group. The volume begins with descriptions of several new pterosaurs from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous of Europe, North and South America, and Africa. Following this, alternative hypotheses of pterosaur phytogeny and evolution are put forward. Several papers discuss the functional anatomy of pterosaurs and its implications for aerial locomotion. The study of pterosaur footprints provides important new evidence concerning their terrestrial locomotion, and this approach is used in several contributions. A developing aspect of pterosaur research is bone histology, as shown by the final papers in this collection.
A cladistic analysis based on 39 terminal taxa and 74 characters (several multistate) using PAUP (Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony) (3.1.1 for Macintosh and 4.0b10 for Microsoft Windows) presents a new hypothesis of pterosaur inter-relationships. This study suggests that the most primitive taxon is the Anurognathidae, followed by Sordes and all remaining pterosaurs. Dendrorhynchoides is confirmed as a member of the Anurognathidae, being closely related to Batrachognathus. Preondactylus occupies a more derived position than Sordes, which questions its previous assignment as the most primitive pterosaur. The hypothesis of rhamphorhynchoid paraphyly is confirmed, with the Rhamphorhynchidae more closely related to the...