Mountain Nature and Culture Podcast
About This Show
This podcast explores the natural and human history of the Canadian Rockies as well as its attractions and culture. We'll look at the ecology and wildlife as well as the unique plants and birds that make the Canadian Rockies home. Looking back through our history we will share the stories behind the scenery. This is the place for all things Rockies.
Most Recent Episode
044 Flying giraffes and loving the mountains to death
7 days ago
Flying Dinosaurs as Tall as Giraffes If you're a regular listener of this podcast, then you know that I love dinosaurs. Living in Alberta is the perfect mix because we have one of the best landscapes for finding dino remains and there are new discoveries happening all the time. The Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller is one of the leading research centres in the world and for many visitors to Alberta, it is there first real opportunity to look at some of the most unique fossils that have been placed on display. One of their most recent exhibits shows the most well preserved dinosaur ever found, a Nodosaur, essentially an armoured dinosaur similar to the more well known Ankylosaurs. You can learn more about it in episode 30 at www.mountainnaturepodcast.com/ep030. Now comes an even stranger story from the Royal Tyrell Museum that has to do with those strange flying dinosaurs known as pterosaurs. These were formidable creatures, in some cases being as tall as a modern giraffe but potentially soaring on wingspans similar to airplanes. No creature, before or since has ever been a more fearsome presence soaring overhead. Donald Henderson is the curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrell, and he came across an artist's rendering of the largest of pterosaurs, Arambourgiania philadelphiae, placed next to, and as tall as, a giraffe. The giraffe weighs in at 1,500 kg but a similarly sized pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, was thought to weigh far far less, perhaps as little as 70 kg. For Henderson, he felt that a pterosaur that tall had to weigh far more than 70 kg, and he did his own math and came up with an estimate of some 550 kg. This immense weight also meant that it was highly unlikely that the Arambourgiania could fly at all. He concluded that, like penguins, it had likely evolved to be flightless. A bird of this mass would have needed incredible muscle strength in order to take to the air. Based on his research, he was clipping its wings and grounding it. Well his paper got little response from fellow researchers…oh wait, it was like he'd said something crazy like pterosaurs can't fly. Well the opposition to his research was not long in coming. Mark Witton is one of the most recognized authorities on pterosaurs, and it was his rendering that Henderson had encountered that started this whole process. As he was quoted in a recent interview in the publication Inverse: “There’s a handful of people who sort of dip in and out of pterosaurs, who have