Posts Tagged ‘pterosaurs plantigrade or digitgrade’

Were/Are Pterosaurs Bi-Peds or Quadrupeds? The Ancient Maya Weigh In?

Church of Darwin, Crypto, Dinosaurs in Literature, s8int.com, Science, Uncategorized, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Oct 21 2011

Photo: Mayan Peten Bowl
500 AD. to 800 AD. $1,895.00
“From ancient Mexico, Mayan, Peten region. Extremely fine and rare polychrome pottery bowl depicting the three failed attempts to create human beings – as published in the Maya Popol Vuh.” Gallery
Private collection

Well, here they are again; pterosaurs. If anyone out there consistently reads this blog it must seem as though pterosaurs are my favorite topic. That’s really not the case; they just seem to come up so frequently as a subject of ancient art is all. Honestly, my interests are broader than it would sometimes seem. I take them as they come.

Pterosaurs had three fingered “hands” attached to their wings at the pinky (a very long pinkie) and of course hind legs. Scientists have gone back and forth on the topic of pterosaur ground locomotion for years. Did they walk bi pedally or did they walk on all fours similar to a quadruped-or both?

The ancient Mayans weigh in with a partial answer; they could and did apparently walk on all fours. Prior specimens of ancient art that we’ve featured here indicate that they were bi pedal as well. The style and nature of this painting made it difficult for experts to identify the creature being portrayed on this ancient piece and they’ve concocted quite the story.

A comparison with recent mind’s eye depictions of pterosaurs on the ground may help the open minded see what the artist was apparently actually depicting; an out of time and place, pterosaur if you adhere to the current paradigm’s version of earth’s history.

“When setting out to restore fossil animals, an artist is faced with a unique problem that is not often faced by scientists. Where a scientist can reasonably reach the conclusion that something is not—or cannot be— known, a palaeontological artist is forced to reach conclusions on things which are unknown, and perhaps always will be.

An artist can’t paint a pterosaur in “don’t know” colours, or behaving in a “don’t know” way. Restoring pterosaurs, therefore, not only requires research into what is known about pterosaur’s anatomy, behaviour, and environment, but also a method for building up complete picture, even when there is little or no evidence to be had.”… John Conway Pterosaur Restoration.net

On Pterosaur Locomotion

“It didn’t take long for early pterosaur workers to figure out that pterosaurs were flying animals. Their hyperelongate forelimbs, fused torso elements, robust shoulder girdle and pectoral elements are clear indications that pterosaurs were adapted for self-propelled flight and, although some arguments have raged over the finer details of their flight styles, no-one has questioned their basic volant ability.


However, the same cannot be said for pterosaur terrestrial ability: for almost as long as pterosaurs have been known, little consensus has existed on both how and how well pterosaurs would be able to move on land. Early workers thought pterosaurs were probably relatively confident terrestrial locomotors, although no-one could agree whether they would stand in a bird-like, bipedal fashion, a lizard-like quadrupedal configuration or an erect, mammal-like quadrupedal stance.

Pterosaurologists of the mid-20th century took a dimmer view: these workers suggested that pterosaurs could barely stand, let alone walk, and would have to push themselves over the ground with dragging bellies and useless forelimbs held aloft.

Opinions changed in the 1980s when several pterosaur workers attempted biomechanical studies of pterosaur limbs in efforts to figure out their terrestrial competence: alas, this confused matters further as different interpretations of the same material led to drastically different conclusions.

In the space of a decade, pterosaurs were restored as dinosaur-like bipeds, penguin-like bipeds, sprawled-limbed quadrupeds and erect-limbed quadrupeds.”… Mark Witton Pterosaur Terrestrial Locomotion

So There You Have It?

“So there you have it. The answer is: Both.


Pterosaurs were both plantigrade and digitigrade. Pterosaurs were both bipedal and quadrupedal. Pedal digit 5 was useful for basal pterosaurs, but not for derived flatfoots. All of these traits are like those of living lizards, the ones capable of standing, walking and running bipedally.

At such times, these lizards turn from plantigrady to digitigrady without overextending the metatarsophalangeal joints, without having symmetrical pedes and without having all of the various morphological advantages that pterosaurs enjoyed, such as an anteriorly elongated ilium, an expanded sacral series for balance and prepubes to help elevate their femora. Pterosaurs likely took off bipedally, NOT with their forelimbs as described here.

They certainly had to land bipedally.”

Pterosaurs: Bipedal? Quadrupedal? or Both?
The Pterosaur Heresies