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August 19, 2013
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'In the absence of proper data, speculate wildly' by Eurwentala 'In the absence of proper data, speculate wildly' by Eurwentala
Hypothetical pterosaur ancestors, or HyPtA, as speculated by Mark Witton in his new book Pterosaurs.

The hypothetical steps start with a Scleromochlus-like leaping little thing with a covering of primitive pycnofibers for insulation. It's already highly active and endothermic, like the first ornithodirans seem to have been.

The leaping lizard evolves into an arboreal animal, sort of an archosaurian squirrel, that also uses it's strong front limbs to grab branches. Then, logically, follows an archosaurian flying squirrel. It only has small membranes, but enough to help it make longer leaps between trees and parachute if it happens to fall. The next step, I think, could be called a reptilian colugo. It's a specialized glider and already more than a bit clumsy on the ground, though it's still not quite capable of powered flight, at least not more than short distances.

And last, the little guy finally taking flight is Preondactylus, which seems to be the most primitive known pterosaur.

The title is actually a quote from the book chapter depicting these animals. Witton's use of language has almost made me snort tea on the pages multiple times. Who said books about science are boring?

No doubt the actual story, if we ever find the fossils to tell it, is a lot more messy and confusing. At least bird evolution still is full or mysterious stuff even though we know dozens of transitional species. But this is a neat little hypothesis to compare future fossils to. And it includes ridiculously cute little animals.
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:iconhelixdude:
Helixdude Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2014  New member
Excellent picture, is it just me or does it look like dinosaurs and pterosaurs might have a common ancestor? Your HYPTA possesses pycnofibres, perhaps the first dinosaurs inherited their downy feathers from this creature?
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner 5 days ago
Yeah, you're on the right track.

Pterosaurs and dinosaurs are closely related and they definitely did have a common ancestor somewhere in the Triassic (or perhaps Late Permian). As there are few fossils to help, it's up to educated guesses what the common ancestor was like. Given how many animals from bouth groups are now known to have had a fuzzy integument, it is plausible that they all inherited in from their common ancestor, which may have looked somewhat like the hypothetical pterosaur ancestor here. The other option is that fuzz is easy to evolve, and dinosaurs and pterosaur aquired it multiple times, which is not unlikely either. At the moment, there's really no way to know.
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:iconlordofstamps:
LordOfstamps Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2014
I wonder which came first: the pterosaur or the dinosaur?
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014
That would be cool to know. We need to find a Triassic lagerstätte preserving tons of small animals with soft tissues too. It would answer a lot of questions, including the early evolution of dinosaurs and pterosaurs. 
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:iconbirdheart54:
Birdheart54 Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Aww
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:iconfalcolf:
Falcolf Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Professional Filmographer
This is really adorable :heart: the beady little eyes are super cute!
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner May 25, 2014
Thanks. :)
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:iconsparklet-rayne:
Sparklet-Rayne Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
There are a lot of good fossils that we are lacking. I myself would like to read that book.
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:icontrefrex:
TrefRex Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2014
Very unique evolution! :)
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:icongrays-raptor-flock:
Grays-raptor-flock Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow... This looks very interesting and convincing.  I think my favorite one is the second fella.  :D 
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