Pterosaurs: Old bones, new technology
There are ancient organisms that defy the imagination and challenge science to understand them. These extinct behemoths and leviathans have inspired many students into the sciences and pushed the boundaries of what life is capable of. Unfortunately, the most extraordinary of these creatures are the least understood. The pterosaurs were the first vertebrates in flight and the longest aloft with a fossil record of over 150 million years. They became the largest flying animals of all time; they were organisms that could have stared a giraffe in the eye and then catapult themselves into the air. However, as large fragile organisms with hollow skeletons, they did not leave us a very good fossil record. New technology such as Microfocus CT-scanners and visualization software allow us to digitally dissect fossils in ways that would have destroyed the fossils not long ago, and new techniques such as phylogenetic comparative methods and ancestral state reconstruction allow us restore how pterosaurs lived and what they looked like.