Padian, Kevin Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, California.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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An extinct order of winged reptiles of the Mesozoic Era, constituting the closest major group to Dinosauria and sharing many features with them. The common ancestor of members of the order Pterosauria (pterosaurs) was a small, bipedal, agile archosaur reptile probably similar to the small Scleromochlus of the Late Triassic. This ancestor probably possessed a large, lightly built skull; a short body; long hind limbs; and digitigrade feet with four long metatarsals. Pterosaurs inherited all these features, and they further evolved the power of flight. Bats have a wing of skin stretched among four fingers and extending from the arms to the legs (and often the tail), and birds have a wing of feathers supported by the arm and the fused wrist–hand bones. Pterosaurs had a wing of skin that was internally supported by long, fine, possibly keratinous stiffening fibers and braced by the forelimb, including a greatly elongated fourth finger (the first three fingers remained small) [Fig. 1]. Their brains were relatively large and somewhat birdlike; the canals of the ear region show that they were well suited for life in the air. See also: Archosauria; Dinosauria; Mesozoic; Reptilia
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