First record of a pterosaur landing trackway

Jean-Michel Mazin, Jean-Paul Billon-Bruyat, Kevin Padian

Abstract

The terrestrial progression of pterosaurs, the flying reptiles of the Mesozoic Era, has been debated for over two centuries. The recent discovery of quadrupedal pterodactyloid pterosaur tracks from Late Jurassic sediments near Crayssac, France, shows that the hindlimbs moved parasagittally, as in mammals, birds and other dinosaurs, and the hypertrophied forelimbs could make tracks both close to the body wall and far outside it. Their manus tracks are unique in form, position and kinematics, which would be expected because the forelimbs were used for flight. Here, we report the first record of a pterosaur landing track, which differs substantially from typical walking trackways. The individual landed on both hind feet in parallel fashion, dragged its toes slightly as it left the track, landed again almost immediately and placed the hindfeet parallel again, then placed its forelimbs on the ground, took another short step with both hindlimbs and adjusted its forelimbs, and then began to walk off normally. The trackway shows that pterosaurs stalled to land, a reflection of their highly developed capacity for flight control and manoeuverability.

Footnotes

    • Received July 3, 2009.
    • Accepted July 28, 2009.
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