August 19, 2009

Prehistoric landing tracks

Fossil imprints of the landing tracks of a flying dinosaur called the pterosaur have been found in southwestern France.

The footprints suggest the pterosaur — a “pterodactyloid” with a wingspan roughly three feet wide (one meter) — flapped to stall its flight during landing, and then planted both its two-inch-long feet (five cm) simultaneously at a high angle.

The reptile next dragged its toes briefly, took a short “stutter step” — perhaps a hop with both feet — and landed, settling its hands. It finally adjusted its posture and ambled off normally on all fours.