Our Lives with Pterosaurs Mark Witton, University of Portsmouth
Tuesday 15 April, 7:30 for 8:00pm start
Pterosaurs, sometimes confusing known as 'pterodactyls', were flying reptilian contemporaries of dinosaurs. They used membranous wings to evolve powered flight before any other vertebrates and were tremendously successful, developing at least 140 species across 160 million years of evolution, spreading to every continent, and on several occasions, attaining wingspans rivalling those of small planes. Their dynasty finally ended 66 million years ago in the K/Pg extinction which wiped out 75% of life on Earth, but what if it hadn't? In this richly illustrated, slightly tongue-in-cheek talk, we'll explore what modern life may be like if pterosaurs had pulled through the Cretaceous mass extinction to live alongside mankind. In the process, we'll discuss which of the many types of pterosaur may have survived until the modern day, analyse their anatomy to learn if they'd be worth farming as livestock, look at their dietary habits to see if we - as so many films suggest - be at predation risk from wild giant pterosaurs and, most important of all, learn if we could ride them to work. The answers to these questions touch on many new areas of research into pterosaur palaeobiology, and many of the explanations and answers may be quite surprising - new science on pterosaurs suggests they are not the cumbersome, clumsy animals we once thought we knew!
Mark Witton is a palaeontological researcher at the University of Portsmouth specialising in pterosaurs, a group of flying reptiles related to, and contemporaneous with, the dinosaurs which didn't evolve into birds. His research into these animals involves aspects of their taxonomy, lifestyles, flight mechanics and terrestrial locomotion, and he has a particular interest in the giant pterosaurs, animals as tall as giraffes with wingspans the size of small planes. His book 'Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy' (Princeton University Press) is dedicated to these flying reptiles. Mark also serves as a semi-professional palaeoartist, restoring the life appearance of ancient animals for scientific papers, books, television and magazine articles. - see his website, markwitton.com , while newer pieces and palaeontological essays can be found at his blog, http://markwitton-com.blogspot.co.uk . Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkWitton.