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Issue no. 110 | May-June 2022

Cover story

Dinosaurs to Birds:
How did the earthbound dinosaurs became airborne birds?

The first vertebrate animals (that is, animals with a spinal column, or backbone) to fly were reptiles. In the geological periods called the Jurassic and Cretaceous (from about 170 million to about 70 million years ago) the earth was dominated by reptiles. On the land the great dinosaurs were supreme, and above flew the extraordinary creatures called pterodactyls.

These pterodactyls had wings of skin, formed by modification of the fore-limbs, just as bats have, but their wings were made up in quite a different way. In a bat the wing is stretched on the arm and four of the fingers. In a pterodactyl the fourth finger was greatly enlarged and elongated (lengthened) and the membrane of skin which formed the wing extended along this finger, along the arm, and back to the hind legs. The thumb and first two fingers were free and were probably used for climbing and scrambling about. There were many different kinds of pterodactyl and some grew to a large size, bigger than any of the existing birds that can fly. The biggest of all was the Pteranodon, which had a wing-span of 7.5 meters (25 feet).

More interesting articles

The Wandering North Pole

Ever heard about a Magnet weighing 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons, well you have seen it. It was detected by Queen Elizabeth of England’s physician, whose name was Willion Gilbert. Of course, he could not bring this magnet into his laboratory. He studied its smaller twins: iron balls, which he magnetized and used for carrying out various experiments. Then he wrote a book with the strange title: On the Magnet, Magnetic Bodies and the Great Magnet of the Earth. Before we proceed further, it must be emphasized that our Earth is not magnet. It’s dynamo or more clearly, geodynamo.


This is also what is called an urban myth and, surprisingly, it still persists—some forty years after the first Moon landing. Another belief that the Great (Cheops) Pyramid of Egypt can be spotted from the Moon is similarly baseless. The reason why these huge man-made structures remain imperceptible is that the human eye has relatively poor resolving power even though its retina’s densest portion, known as fovea region, has an impressive 1,85,000 receptors per square millimetre. A person with sharp vision can resolve 1/60 of a degree with the unaided eye. The farther away from an object he gets, the smaller it appears to him.

Dolphin: Friends in Need

Dolphins are known for their intelligence and also empathy. There have been many stories of dolphins helping their wounded companions, holding them up to the surface so that they can breathe, and there are even reports of drowning men being rescued by dolphins. At first these stories tended to be treated with scepticism by zoologists but since dolphins have been kept in oceanaria they have been found to be remarkably intelligent. Helping an injured companion, known as epimeletic behaviour, was recorded in an oceanarium when a Bottle-nosed dolphin was accidentally knocked unconscious.


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