Well, I'm back from the Munich Pterosaur conference - I bet you didn't even know I'd gone. Nevertheless, a report. I'll stick to the things that interested me most, which are to do with anatomy and flight mechanics that affect appearance. For a broader view, check out Darren Naish's blog scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoolo…
Muchos thankos to Dave Hone who organised the thing, which not only went off without a hitch, but which was wall to wall awesome.
Just as an example, he had managed to collect the two finest specimens of Pterodactylus
plus the holotype, the Zittel wing, the Darkwing Rhamphorynchus
, a gob-smacking new specimen that I'm not sure I'm allowed to talk about, the Tapejara
with soft tissue crest, Ludodactylus
, a freakin' Archaeopteryx
and the really famous Compsognathus
, plus a whole bunch of other specimens that blew everyone's socks off all in the same room. If you now anything about pterosaurs, you'll know how amazing that was.
I presented a poster on the forelimb musculature of Anhanguera
, in which I reached a very similar conclusion to Chris Bennett who did a talk on the very same thing. Chris's paper will be out mid next year, my poster is available to anyone that asks under a creative commons license.
Chris and I both independently reached the conclusion that the wing finger flexes
into flight position, and hyperextends to fold. The hand is essentially palm forward during flight (rather than palm-down, as is common in pictures). Chris also pretty convincingly argued that the pteroid articulates on the back underside of the preaxial carpal not on the top, as has been shown in countless drawings -- if true (and I'll bet my bottom dollar it is), it pretty much sinks the notion that the pteroid could point forward during flight.
Laurence Browning and the Bristol crew presented work on the flexibility of the wing spar using beam theory, and finite element analysis. The results were pretty similar to what I remember of similar work done during the Stanford Pterosaur Project - the outer wing was quite flexible. It would have flexed upward during flight quite a bit, though I don't remember the exact numbers. I have known about this for some time, and largely failed to incorporate it into my drawings. This has given me the nudge I needed, and I have updated my paintings where appropriate.
O'Conner, Classens and Unwin presented some pretty cool air sac stuff - most interesting to me was their diagram showing air sacs all throughout the wing - in front and behind the wings spar, just as I've been drawing it for ages now.
Mark Witton gave an interesting talk on pterosaur mass estimates. He found a really tight correlation between skeletal mass in modern birds and mammals to their overall mass (birds do not
have lighter skeletons than mammals, they just have more voluminous bones). Applying that to pterosaurs, he got pretty high estimates for pterosaurs, considering how low some have been in the past. They are generally in line with Greg Paul's estimates, although the manner in which they were derived differs substantially. Quetzalcoatlus northropi
came out at 250kg - which is the highest estimate yet (some have ranged as low as 70kg!), but not so heavy for an animal that could look a giraffe in the eye. Check out Mark's drawing, and more detailed explanation here => www.flickr.com/photos/markwitt…
Lastly, Helmut Tischlinger's photographs of the fossils under UV light is amazing, and brought a few new things to, erm... light. But you'll have to wait for the paper on that one.
There was lots more, but I'm sure there are better people to hear it from than me.