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August 12 2013

Why pterosaurs weren't so scary after all

For most of us, "pterodactyls" are imagined as large, vicious and ugly gargoyles with lanky limbs, leathery wings and jaws lined with savage teeth, the sort of disreputable brutes we find in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, the Jurassic Park franchise even a recent episode of Doctor Who. Such works suggest we should think ourselves lucky that these flying reptiles some of which measured 10 metres across the wings and stood as tall as giraffes were confined to landscapes populated by equally terrible dinosaurs, marine reptiles and turbulent volcanoes during a time known as the Mesozoic era (250m-65m years ago) and that they aren't alive today to menace mankind.

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