Binocular Vision in Pterosaurs
April 16, 2014 5:32 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to find any information about binocular vision in pterosaurs.

This past weekend, I went to the Museum of Natural History's exhibition on pterosaurs. Their illustrations for Jeholopterus varied greatly in the placement of they eyes from on the sides of the head to facing forward (third picture on the page). (The second image caused me to dub it "freaky monkey pterosaur.")

So how much binocular vision did pterosaurs have? I have found a couple of scattered references to family Anurognathus (of which Jeholopterus is a genus) having binocular vision, based on the structure of ear canals. Were these pterosaurs unique in having binocular vision, or did pteranodons and other pterosaurs have vision like a raptors instead of like a tern or pigeon? Links to academic articles are acceptable, I have confederates who can access articles for me.

Please nothing by David Peters. From what I can read, his work on pterosaurs is at best somewhat wrong and generally completely inaccurate, which is a shame as he seems to be the only one who has posted anything online about this. (If the site mentions Jeholopterus as a vampire, skip it)
posted by Hactar to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is a nice nature paper about pterosaur neuroanatomy that includes discussion of binocular vision.
posted by rockindata at 6:50 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here is a google scholar search for papers that cite that paper. Also, this is a fantastic question to ask a reference librarian at an academic science library(I used to have that job, these were the kind of questions that were really fun to answer.)
posted by rockindata at 6:57 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here is a Google Books result for a book by some of the authors of the above Nature paper
posted by rockindata at 7:15 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is not an answer, but I suspect some of the reason you're having trouble finding answers is because with a name like Jeholopterus this pterosaurid must be part of the Jehol Biota, a huge laggerstatten in China. Much of the research on it may be in Chinese. This might help direct your search. Many species of the Jehol Biota are also found in the formations of the Daohugou Biota, so that might also be a keyword in your search.

Ah! I found the paper for the holotype of Jeholopterus; however, it's in Chinese, but maybe it will help you with authors etc.:

Ji Q., Yuan C. 2002 Discovery of two kinds of protofeathered pterosaurs in the Mesozoic Daohugou Biota in the Ningcheng region and its stratigraphic and biologic significances. Geol. Rev. 48, 221–224.

And I know some VPs of mine were recently excited about a book called Pterosaurs by Mark Witton, and a search of the citations includes that paper....but I don't know anything about the book other than that.
posted by barchan at 7:30 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have the Mark Witton book here in front of me (I got it at the Pterosaurs exhibit actually). I can't actually find the term binocular vision anywhere in it cursorily (perhaps a full read-through would do it, but it's not a term in the index). For Anurognathids, it talks a lot about how large their eyes were and that they likely had excellent vision, but doesn't mention much more. The book is worth a read either way, although I have the impression that Mark Witton is also a little controversial when it comes to his pterosaur theories.

A quick google scholar search turns up this, there's mention on pterosaur vision in it:
posted by PinkPoodle at 6:14 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

And this article implies that at least Pteranodon would have had binocular vision ("Turning the head fully broadside to the airflow would result in the binocular vision being diverted from the animal’s flight path, a risky manoeuvre when landing.")
posted by PinkPoodle at 6:24 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am at work, so I can't read any of these, but you guys rock! I will be taking part of the weekend to read up on this stuff and I will definitely take a look at Mark Witton's book.
posted by Hactar at 8:05 AM on April 17, 2014

You could also e-mail one of the curators of the exhibit directly:
Dr. Norell's contact info
posted by barchan at 8:45 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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