Leapin' Lizards; May 2009; Scientific American Magazine; by Stuart Fox; 2 Page(s)
For almost a century, scientists struggled to explain how the extinct reptiles called pterosaurs managed to get off the ground. In regard to the smaller pterosaurs, bird models sufficed; flapping from standstill or a running start could work. But for the larger pterosaurs, some of which had a 26-foot wingspan and weighed 200 pounds, scientists could not find a bird model that explained takeoff.
That is because they did not take off like birds, thinks Michael Habib, who studies functional anatomy and evolution at Johns Hopkins University. After analyzing the biomechanics of the creatures, Habib proposes that pterosaurs took flight by using all four limbs to make a standing jump into the sky, not by running on their two hind limbs or jumping off a height, as more widely assumed.