Of course for me, I notice how poorly done the pterosaurs are with respect to their contemporaneous dinosaurian relatives (remember, pterosaurs aren't dinosaurs!). I think Mark Witton put it the best:
Hi Jurassic World-the 1960s called. They need their scaly, shrink-wrapped, human-snatching pterosaurs back, and that you should know better.I'm not going to go into the general inaccuracies of the pterosaurs (e.g. they should be covered in fibres, more meaty, etc), but I will talk about this problem of people-snatching pterosaurs. This is something that goes back quite far in Hollywood and dinosaur-related movies. There is always an image of a large pterosaur (typically Pteranodon) swooping down and picking up a person and flying away.
— Mark Witton (@MarkWitton) February 2, 2015
|Nice grainy image of the Pteranodon flying away with a poor, unsuspecting woman in Jurassic World|
|Painting of a Peregrine falcon by John Gerrard|
Keulemans. Notice the foot on the front bird and
how it is grasping the branch.
|Drawing of a Golden Eagle foot by Lydekker (1895)|
showing the 4-digit structure of the foot.
With that in mind, let's think about pterosaur feet. Pterosaurs have slender, weakly muscled feet. While the earlier non-pterodactyloids had 4 long, slender clawed digits that would have been flat on the ground during walking (in a plantigrade posture), the 5th digit was still elongated but did not touch the ground when walking (but was also not reversed as seen in birds). In more derived pterodactyloids, the 5th digit is almost entirely lost. None of these digits are reversed like in birds, and do not show the grasping structure as is typically shown in movies. Furthermore, pterosaur legs are weakly muscled, with most of their musculature occurring in the wings. They simply would not have had the musculature present to grasp prey in the same way that birds do.
|Drawing of pterosaur hindlimbs from Witton (2013). A represents a pterodactyloid hindlimb (Anhanguera) with the nearly missing digit V, while B shows a non-pterodacctyloid (Rhamphorhynchus) with an elongated (but not clawed) digit V.|
So next time you see a pterosaur flying off with a person in tow in any kind of movie/tv show/etc., remember that it just couldn't happen. If pterosaurs were alive today, that would not be a concern we would have to deal with!
Special thanks to Tony Martin for giving me the idea for this post!
Witton, MP (2008) A new approach to determining pterosaur body mass and its implications for pterosaur flight. Zitteliana B28: 143-158.
Witton, MP (2013) Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA. 304 pages.