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February 11, 2014
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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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: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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: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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: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 3 days ago
like man flying, or dinosaurs having feathers right?
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner 3 days ago
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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:icontacimur:
Tacimur Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I didn't even know about the other oddities you listed apart from its head. This animal looks so unlikely... fix a broom handle to any living animal today and see how they manage. It's a wonderful depiction you did, thank you for sharing.
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:iconqilong:
Qilong Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2014
The crst is pretty thin, and would be rather light: it's assume to be hollow. It's the arms that are ridiculous, because they seem to impair whether it could walk quadrupedally at all.
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:icontacimur:
Tacimur Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I still imagine the normal stress on the crest through movement would have been immense. And I just followed your link in an above comment to your Sebulba Nyctosaurus. Amazing. Albatroses have nothing on these guys. They're in a way like inverted penguins... and surely the star in every comedic animal documentation.
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:iconqilong:
Qilong Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2014
We underestimate pterosaurs so much. Several people have been head-scratching over the disproportionate wings and legs, and had to conclude that no matter how reasonable quad walking is for pterosaurs, at least nyctosaurs are doing something different when terrestrial. Maybe as ungainly as a loon on land, but nonetheless capable.
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:iconzopteryx:
ZoPteryx Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Excellent work, and I like the worried expression on the Nycto's face.  Though the pose is unlikely, I suppose it's possible that it could have been adopted for a few moments.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014
I'm not sure how likely the pose would be, but it's probably not very stable. I think the animal could have just risen up like this for a few seconds or so to look around or make itself look bigger. It wouldn't have been a completely unnatural pose, as it's also a part of the pterosaur launch sequence.
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:icondeinonychusempire:
DeinonychusEmpire Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, very cool!
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:iconorionide5:
Orionide5 Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014
I could see Pteranodon potentially attacking a Nyctosaurus nest, not to mention seabirds, so I'm sure her caution is wise. 
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014
If oceanic islands were anywhere as crowded back then as they're now, there sure would have been robbers. :)
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:icondragunalb:
Dragunalb Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
This actually looks incredibly weird and cute at the same time =)
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:iconrickraptor105:
RickRaptor105 Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014

Oh I really love the idea of a pterosaur walking only on its forelimbs. Amazing how it turns from clumsy to elegant.

 

Never would have thought about that. :)

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:iconkoeskull:
Koeskull Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
o.o Well that looks familliar. www.world-wide-art.com/art/va/…
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