By the time they were wiped out alongside their dinosaur cousins, most winged pterosaurs had evolved from awkwardly airborne to lords of the primeval skies, according to new research published Wednesday.
Pterosaurs, the first creatures with a backbone to fly under their own power, emerged during the late Triassic period more than 200 million years ago and include some of the largest animals ever to take to the air.
Paleontologists are still piecing together details of the lives of these winged reptiles — neither dinosaurs nor birds — which soared above T-rex, Triceratops and other dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period.
In one of two studies published in Nature on pterosaurs, researchers in Britain found the creatures were initially ungainly fliers.
But the study, which used statistical methods, biophysical models and fossil records, said that pterosaurs spent 150 million years perfecting their flying skills.
“Pterosaurs really were incredible animals,” co-author