Science: Giving a Big Bird a Lift

Some 100 million years ago, when huge dinosaurs still trod the earth, the skies were dominated by a creature equally awesome: the fish-eating Pteranodon. Endowed with a wingspread of 25 ft.* but extremely short, weak legs, the bizarre reptile clearly had to fly to spot and capture its prey. Yet the construction of its wings (unsuitable for continuous flapping) and its large size have long seemed to zoologists almost insurmountable obstacles to flight. "How this animal could get itself into the air from level ground," wrote Harvard Paleontologist Alfred Romer, "is difficult to...

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