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Watchful by Eurwentala Watchful by Eurwentala
Nyctosaurus, the antler-headed pelagic pterosaur with competely ridiculous limbs. The forelimbs of Nyctosaurus actually lacked hands and resembled walking sticks rather than limbs. And the legs were tiny. The animal probably spent most of it's life on the wing.

I was sketching Nyctosaurus and had difficulty getting the legs to reach the ground in any sensible pose. The smarter half then suggested they don't necessarily need to. Perhaps the animal could lift itself up on the stilt-like forelimbs to have a look around. 

So here's a female Nyctosaurus preparing to lay her eggs, but before doing so, she checks that there are no potential nest robbers around. She's probably on a small oceanic island, safe from the fearsome terrestrial predators of Late Cretaceous.

Black markers and Photoshop.
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2015
Hey, interesting speculation on Nyctosaurus possibly standing or even walking on the forelimbs alone!
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:iconherofan135:
herofan135 Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
So beautiful, love this one. ^^
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2014
Was this thing possibly viviparous? that way it never needed to land at all......
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2014
That's an interesting idea. Giving birth in the air sounds, well, awkward, but so does laying eggs on land with poles for forelimbs.

There is no evidence of any archosaur ever evolving viviparity, however (while living squamates alone have evolved it some 100-odd times). It might be because they have some physiological constrains preventing that.
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2015
I don't see how that could happen. It just give birth to a puppy in the middle of the sky and the newborn just gett out flying? That's a much crazier idea than laying eggs with that forelimbs. To spend a whole life in the air seens very expensive in terms of energy to me. 
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015
As at least some baby pterosaurs probably could fly at the age of few hours or so (like megapode chicks do today), it wouldn't been completely impossible for the nyctosaur mom to give birth and catch the baby on her hind limb claws or a specialized patagium or something. She could then carry it for the little time it takes. Though I don't think that would have been particularly likely even in the case pterosaurs were able to evolve viviparity.
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015
But we've found a lot of perossaur's eggs. Load the puppy in the belly until its full development seems much extra weight to carry. That's ok for a small animal like a bat, but not for one this size. Still an interesting idea.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015
I'm not sure the size makes much of a difference there, as big pterosaurs could have given birth to proportionally much smaller babies than bats. That, and they had to carry the eggs before laying in any case, and they already hold all the weight of the hatchling plus the energy reserves needed for development.

But you're right that we do know for sure at least some pterosaurs laid eggs. Worse, there's no evidence that any archosaur ever managed to evolve viviparity. I think we can safely put this idea under "cool, but unlikely". :)
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015
They have to carry the eggs but not until their babies were fully developed, just in the early stages. I still can't see a clear vantage in this. But I'm ok with the "cool, but unlikely" label.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2014
I have heard about the embryos needing calcium from eggshells as a possible reason for this.

Another idea: if archosaurs suddenly took a massive hit, would squamates take over in areas where viviparity is much better than laying eggs?

I can imagine a flying squamate (possibly an evolved version of the gliding snakes we have, since they already can generate some lift) being viviparous, spending its entire life in the skies.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015
Yeah, someone always takes over after a mass extinction, and in this case it might well be squamates.

Though I think they would first need to evolve homeothermic, high-level metabolism to be able to actively fly. While squamates are extremely agile and effective in short bursts, they tire quickly. Worse, it would be very hard for them to keep sufficient body temperature when in flight.

Evolving powered flight is apparently not easy, as it only has evolved a few times despite probably thousands and thousands of gliding species thought the history of life. It's an interesting topic to guess what kind of animal may be the next to achieve it.

It may be worth noting that while bats are viviparous and I think some species actually do carry their young with them, none have evolved to live their entire lives in the skies. Swifts and other sleeping-on-the-wing birds are still the closest equivalent.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015
Seems mosasaurs evolved homeothermy, so they could do it. I'd imagine the varanids, with their high endurance level, would have the best advantage in this. Perhaps an arboreal monitor species would evolve to produce a lineage of gliders, then fliers would evolve from there. And having seen Atheris Hispidus I imagine it isn't too hard to convert scales into insulations.

Another idea is that of flying snakes (which can already generate lift by turning their whole bodies into airfoils) producing more and more lift until they can overcome gravity. I have a weird, filter-feeding giant flying snake based on that idea.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2015
Yeah, they sure could. Just that I think there would be a new radiation of endothermic reptiles (which would also probably need to evolve some sort of insulation, but I agree that wouldn't necessarily be much of a problem), which would only later evolve into new gliding forms and then active flight, instead of any existic gliding species going through all these phases without changing drastically on the way. At least, that's how adaptive radiations usually seem to work.

I think the flying snakes would work more easily in speculative xenobiology, on a planet with a thicker atmosphere (more easily generating lift) and denser aerial plankton.

Mr. Dinomaniac just walked by, asked what I was doing and mentioned that squamates already are basically homeotherms in desert environments. I suppose that if an endothermic squamate were to evolve, it would come from a desert-dwelling varanid.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2015
Speaking of flying snakes, it's shocking to see how much horizontal distance they get.
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2014
I prefer to think they had a membrane in their head. This position looks very plausible and original, congrats =D.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2014
Disproved. There is no way a membrane could attach to that head.
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015
Well, it doesn't necessarily need to. Like this one, for example:

www.deviantart.com/art/Nyctosa…

Still very speculative anyway. 
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015
For me it seems likely that it animal spent a lot of its time sailing on the water, like gooses, using its head crest and wings to do so. That made wings and chest grow bigger and bigger to the point that walking on the ground became difficult.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015
This thing was a flyer, not a swimmer (though there were other pelagic pterosaurs that could swim)
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2015
Why it could't swim? I mean, is there any evidence point that it lived away from water or anything like this? I think it could do both, and spend most of its time on the water like a duck. The biggest problem is taking over in the water, but I don't know if it's so imposible at all.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Edited Mar 27, 2015
Even if you are oceanic, you don't have to swim. In fact, the most oceanic birds are flyers, not swimmers. And when swimming underwater than crest is going to really cause problems.
If it spent its life afloat, it wouldn't have that type of build. I can see some pterosaurs spending most of its time afloat, but this is definitely not one of them.

It was probably only a display device. 
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2015
Well, I think in this way. The crest first appears as a sail and rudder, both for flight and for swimming. Bigger crests and wings makes better flyers and swimmers, so they begin to choose their mates based on wings and crest sizes. With the time, sexual selection overcomes natural selection, to the time it has an enormous crest and wings that don't help swim or fly at all. But we can discuss this pretty much forever. The only fact here is that they're amazing animals and that the art of Eurwentala is awsome.
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(2 Replies)
:iconhelixdude:
Helixdude Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hmm, perhaps it could've used it's tiny back legs to pick up small objects much like Sebulba the Dug from "Star Wars"? Just a speculation, feel free to correct me.
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:iconvaleriolete:
Valeriolete Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2014
I liked that idea ^^.
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:iconkazuma27:
Kazuma27 Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Excellent!
And, by the way, the possibly crazy idea they could have walked on their "hands" is really growin' on me... ;)
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:iconcephalopodomorphist:
cephalopodomorphist Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I love the idea of pterosaurs standing on anterior arms. Sheather88 made something that look like this, it is very cool. I suppose they could maybe even walk like this if they had a sense of balance as good as flying animals living today.

sheather888.deviantart.com/art…
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:iconheytomemeimhome:
Heytomemeimhome Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2014
So it was basically an albatross with antlers?
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner May 11, 2014
Yeah, pretty much. :D

Except that there was only a single antler, and compared to Nyctosaurus, albatrosses are quite capable walkers and runners.
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:iconcmmdrsigma:
cmmdrsigma Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014
Hmmmm, I think we know why it went extinct...
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2014
Well, apart from the antler, Nyctosaurus was superbly adapted to its way of life. As there were no humans bringing new animals to oceanic islands, the island and seaside cliff environments wouls have been pretty much free of predators. It simply didn't need to be able to run. I suspect it might have been one of the most perfectly adapted oceanic fliers of all time. :)

As nyctosaurs lived very close to the end of Cretaceous, the asteroid impact was quite possibly what actually killed them off.
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:iconcybershot:
cybershot Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2014
An impressive work!
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:iconpilsator:
pilsator Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Beautiful work! Really captures its weird proportions, and it works just as well with the Nyctosaurus scanning her surroundings as taking off. Great coloration too.
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:iconelectreel:
electreel Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014
Excellent illustration! Nyctosaurus must have been a really good equilibrist, maybe it used its crest to balance weight?
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:iconcephalopodomorphist:
cephalopodomorphist Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think you could be totally right about that. The big head with a small body could have close the center of gravity of the animal around shoulders. Maybe the word bimanualism should be invented to discribe species walking on two arms^^.
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:icondesorages:
DesOrages Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I never knew it lacked hands.

*so many people are now going to murder me...*
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014
Haha. I hope not.

It's not obvious from life reconstructions, as the hands of some other pterosaurs were so small they were practically invisible anyway. And some of the artists producing Nyctosaurus reconstructions actually have mistakenly given them hands.
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:icondesorages:
DesOrages Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You learn something new everyday. Thanks for giving more this new knowledge. :D
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:iconbeardnick:
beardnick Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014
What if the legs were so tiny because it hung upside down like a bat?
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2014
Impossible.
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:iconbeardnick:
beardnick Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015
like man flying, or dinosaurs having feathers right?
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015
Pterosaur toes don't grab things.
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:iconlordofstamps:
LordOfstamps Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2014
That's unlikely. Pterosaur toes weren't prehensile.
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:icondesorages:
DesOrages Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Possibly. Someone should actually draw that, sort of like a late all yesterdays. However I do think it's more likely to have lived on the wing.
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:iconnettleheart:
Nettleheart Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Nyctosaurus truly is the weirdest of pterosaurs.
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:iconnocturnalsea:
NocturnalSea Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I always love your ability to depict prehistoric animal behavior-- particularly behaviors that one wouldn't necessarily think of.  I really like the fact that this pose IS awkward and unstable, and probably only would have been used for a few seconds.  Plenty of modern-day animals often adopt silly, unbalanced stances for various reasons.  
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:iconwhiskerfacerumpel:
WhiskerfaceRumpel Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Gorgeous!  The colors are so vivid!  This is one of the coolest painting you have made! 
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014
Wow, thank you. :) Though I cheated a bit. There was a much more skilled artist standing behind my shoulder and giving advice.
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:iconwhiskerfacerumpel:
WhiskerfaceRumpel Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hee hee!  :D  It's still gorgeous!!!  And you are the one who did the drawing.  ;) 
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:iconindigomagpie:
indigomagpie Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2014
That actually makes sense. I guess it's that or having them stand /upright/.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014
Yeah. I don't think Nyctosaurus would have been particularly stable standing, essentially, on stilts, but it might have occasionally stood up like this to either look around or make itself look bigger.
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