It's rare to find an intact pterosaur braincase, according to the researchers, and little has been known about the way pterosaur skulls (and thus brains) evolved over time. The researchers used computed-tomography scans to build digital models of the reptile's inner ear and the interior of its skull.
This technique, in turn, let the scientists put Allkaruen in its place in the pterosaur family tree. For instance, the researchers learned that some skull features associated with Pterodactylus - one genus of pterosaurs - had evolved by the early to middle Jurassic, even though pterodactyls themselves had not yet evolved.The research appears today (Aug. 30) in the open-access journal PeerJ.
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Pterosaurs had a suite of adaptations that made them strong fliers. Their bones were feather-light, and they sported air sacs extending from their lungs to keep their body density down and their air exchange efficient, a 2009 study found. While some pterosaur species were tiny, others grew to be the size of giraffes. These behemoths may have used their limbs to leapfrog into flight, paleontologists say.
In 2015, researchers reported the discovery of a 200-million-year-old pterosaur in Utah that had a wingspan measuring 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long, and 110 teeth, including four that were 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long.
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