Scientists Find Flying Reptile an Odd Duck

PORTSMOUTH, England, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Fossils of a flying reptile found in China reveal a strangely disjointed creature, British paleontologists say.

“It’s as if someone said, ‘Let’s nail these two together and make a sort of chimera, that’ll really confuse everybody,’” said Dave Unwin of the University of Leicester in England.

This version of pterodactyl appears so strange it conjures up the image of an old second-rate movie about prehistoric monsters for Mark Whitton of England’s University off Portsmouth. “Fire up the B-movietron!” Whitton exclaimed in talking about the 20 fossils discovered in northeastern China this year that have heads and necks like an advanced, short-tailed pterosaur, but otherwise have skeletons similar to more primitive forms, reported online Wednesday.

The species was christened Darwinopterus in honor of British naturalist Charles Darwin, who was born 200 years ago and whose seminal book “On the Origin of Species” was published 150 years ago.

The crow-sized pterosaur lived between 220 million and 65 million years ago. The scientists believe the creature’s head and neck evolved first, followed later by the body, tail, wings and legs. It seems natural selection was acting on and changing entire modules and not, as would normally be expected, just single features such as the shape of the snout or the form of a tooth. This supports the controversial idea of a relatively rapid “modular” form of evolution,” Unwin said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Categorized | Animals
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