Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Sex Life of Pterosaurs

Developmental growth patterns of the filter-feeder pterosaur, Pterodaustro guiñazui. 2008. A.Chinsamy et al. Biology Letters, Thursday, February 28, 2008.

Pterodaustro guiñazui illo by Stephanie Abramowicz/Courtesy of the Dinosaur Institute, NHM, LA County.
Pterosaurs, like their dinosaur relatives, didn't wait until they were fully grown to have sex, a new study suggests.
Abstract: Life-history parameters of pterosaurs such as growth and ontogenetic development represent an enigma. This aspect of pterosaur biology has remained perplexing because few pterosaur taxa are represented by complete ontogenetic series. Of these, Pterodaustro is unique in that besides being represented by hundreds of individuals with wing spans ranging from 0.3 to 2.5m, it includes an embryo within an egg. Here we present a comprehensive osteohistological assessment of multiple skeletal elements of a range of ontogenetic sizes of Pterodaustro, and we provide unparalleled insight into its growth dynamics.

We show that, upon hatching, Pterodaustro juveniles grew rapidly for approximately 2 years until they reached approximately 53% of their mature body size, whereupon they attained sexual maturity. Thereafter, growth continued for at least another 3–4 years at comparatively slower rates until larger adult body sizes were attained. Our analysis further provides definitive evidence that Pterodaustro had a determinate growth strategy.