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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  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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 Oct 19, 2014
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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:iconwhiskerfacerumpel:
WhiskerfaceRumpel 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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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2013
Thanks. :) I like the archosaurian squirrel idea as well.
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:iconwhiskerfacerumpel:
WhiskerfaceRumpel Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:D  You're welcome. 
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:icontitanlizard:
titanlizard Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013
Perfectly :D
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:iconpilsator:
pilsator Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hey, great to see this speculation fleshed out, as compared to Mark's more diagrammatic approach.
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:iconbabbletrish:
babbletrish Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Love these critters!  Man, I need to get my hands on Witton's book already.
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:iconpaleo-reptiles:
Paleo-reptiles Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2013
I like your pictures :)
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:iconzealraegus:
ZealRaegus Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013
Now that's very interesting.
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:iconzimices:
Zimices Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist
Very nice! I like how in the transition you show the importance of the elongation of the IV finger and toe for the pterosaurs :)
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013
Thanks!
They still look a bit awkward on the transitional forms, but then again, it's not like real animals never look awkward. I might need to work a bit on the exact design.
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:icongrolarbearcatfishes:
GrolarBearCatfishes Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
xD Love that quote, and love this piece. Wonderful work.
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:iconfragillimus335:
Fragillimus335 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
"Wings! Wings for everyone!!!" :D
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013
Exactly. I wonder if anyone has made a similar hypothetic series of bat evolution.
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:iconalexsone:
AlexSone Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very plausible!
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:iconbrolyeuphyfusion9500:
If you have shown the first form alone, it could be mistaken as a dinosaur.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013
The first form is loosely based on Scleromochlus, and does look a lot like a theropod. It seems like everything interesting ever evolved from small, leggy little archosaurs. :D
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:iconpatrikia-bear:
Patrikia-Bear Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I need this book so badly. Also, very nice job. :)
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
Thanks. :) Yes. Everyone needs this book.
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:iconelectreel:
electreel Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
Very well done! I love the transition :) I still have my doubts on Scleromochlus or a Scleromochlus-like creature being the possible direct ancestor of Pterosauria, though it may have been closely related to the true ancestors.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
Thank you. :)
Well, we need a lot more evidence to confirm anything. At the moment it does seem that Scleromochlus is the closest thing to pterosaur ancestry we know of. It doesn't mean it's still that close, however.
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:iconelectreel:
electreel Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2013
That's what I meant ;) 
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:icondragunalb:
Dragunalb Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I really need to update my knowledge on paleontology. It's been a few years since my university studies and I never heard of this theory.
Those critters look really adorable with those bits of fur.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
It's a brand new one: I don't think it has been published anywhere before the book Pterosaurs, though it is solidly founded on earlier hypotheses of pterosaur researchers.

Thanks. Adorable was what I was going for. :)
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:icondragunalb:
Dragunalb Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
The only theory I've learned to know of in my paleontology course was the one that Pterosaurs may evolved from something related to Sharovipteryx, though the problem with that theory is that Sharovipteryx is a diapsid and no archosaur like the pterosaurs. The theory you explained here makes a lot more sense to me =)
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013
Yeah, the Sharovipteryx hypothesis was one of those considered in the book but concluded unlikely. Though Sharovipteryx is not that distantly related: it seems to be a protorosaur, an early offshoot of the archosauromorph line. Pterosaurs have also been suggested to fit somewhere just before the split between dinosaur and crocodile line archosaurs, their closest known relatives being something like Euparkeria. And then there's always David Peters claiming pterosaurs are actually lizards.
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:icondragunalb:
Dragunalb Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
My professor suggested that pterosaurs are the direct sister group of the dinosaurs though he also suggested that there will probably be found more transitional forms in the near future, probably leading to discover more genera that represent transitions between pterosaurs and dinosaurs respectively pterosaurs/archosaurs/crocodilians and archosauromorphs. Maybe this way the puzzle will fit better after some time and we'll also know where exactly Sharovipteryx fits in. After all Sharovipteryx is an animal with a really weird anatomy and we don't know if it's a "finished" or just a transitional form of something else that hasn't been discovered yet.
Pterosaurs being lizards? Lizards as in lepidosauromorphs or real lizards (squamata)? That's a weird idea in my opinion since they look nothing like random lizards but something more advanced. But then again, can pterosaurs still be considered reptiles if they had a furlike coat and were most likely warm-blooded? Still it's a really interesting but yet theoretical topic =)
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:iconkarolinaskauniverse:
KarolinaSkaUniverse Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
So awesome:)
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
Thanks. :)
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:iconkarolinaskauniverse:
KarolinaSkaUniverse Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
You're welcome :)
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