Photos: Baby Pterosaurs Couldn't Fly as Hatchlings

Introduction

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Courtesy of Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

An analysis of 16 baby pterosaur embryos found in northwestern China shows that these little reptiles likely couldn't fly once they hatched. That is, they could probably walk after breaking through their eggs, but couldn't immediately take to the skies.

The discovery comes from a site with 215 pterosaur eggs and the fossilized remains of older pterosaurs. The finding suggests that this species of pterosaur, known as Hamipterus tianshanensis, had colonial nesting behavior. [Read more about the pterosaur egg discovery]

Parent pterosaurs

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Zhao Chuang)

An artist's interpretation of Hamipterus tianshanensis with its young. Because the reptiles likely couldn't fly upon hatching from their eggs, they probably needed parental care.

Pterosaur bonebone

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

Researchers found the pterosaur eggs and fossils in a bone bed (literally, a site with many bones) in the Hami region of northwest Xinjiang, China.

Jawbone

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

The lower jaw of the pterosaur Hamipterus tianshanensis. Notice the large teeth. In contrast, the H. tianshanensis embryos did not have teeth yet, the researchers found.

Small jaw

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

An incomplete pterosaur lower jaw, likely belonging to a young animal.

Field work

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Courtesy of Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

Paleontologists Xiaolin Wang and Alexander Kellner in the field, collecting new pterosaur specimens.

Pterosaur egg

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

A pterosaur egg at the site in China.

Note the fragility of this material. Because the egg was soft like parchment, it likely needed to be buried in moist material so that it wouldn't dry out, which would kill the embryo

Another egg

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Courtesy of Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

A detail of the pterosaur bone bed shows the pterosaur eggs and bones. There are at least 215 pterosaur eggs at the site that date to the Early Cretaceous.

Ground dwellers

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Alexander Kellner/Museu Nacional/UFRJ)

An analysis of 16 baby pterosaur embryos found in northwestern China shows that these little reptiles likely couldn't fly once they hatched. That is, they could probably walk after breaking through their eggs, but couldn't immediately take to the skies.

The discovery comes from a site with 215 pterosaur eggs and the fossilized remains of older pterosaurs. The finding suggests that this species of pterosaur, known as Hamipterus tianshanensis, had colonial nesting behavior. [Read more about the pterosaur egg discovery]

Egg-cellent eggs

Baby Pterosuar embryos

(Image credit: Wang et al., Science (2017))

Preserved, 120-million-year-old pterosaur eggs.

[Read more about the pterosaur egg discovery]