Pterosaur Fossil Discoveries Offer Glimpses of Pterosaur Young

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Although paleontologists have been studying pterosaurs for more than 200 years, it was only 10 years ago that scientists in China discovered the first fossil of a pterosaur egg—definitive proof that, like their dinosaur cousins, as well as most other reptiles and birds, female pterosaurs laid eggs. Inside the egg’s protective shell, the young pterosaur’s skeleton developed, gradually becoming more solid and more complete.

The 2004 egg fossil, a cast of which is featured in the upcoming Pterosaurs exhibition, includes a young pterosaur with a nearly complete skeleton, its wings wrapped around its body. Its wing bones are long and fairly solid, indicating that the animal would probably have been able to take off and fly once it emerged from its shell.

Pterosaur egg

See a cast of a pterosaur egg fossil, which dates from around 125 million years ago, in the upcoming exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs.

© AMNH/C. Chesek

Evidence is still scarce, but additional fossil discoveries offer intriguing clues about how pterosaurs began their lives. In fact, scientists now think that young pterosaurs survived on their own from the start, with no help from parents. 

Learn more about the lifecycle of pterosaurs in the upcoming exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, which opens Saturday, April 5.