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阿氏翼龙:比雷克斯暴龙还大的有翼巨物

更新时间:2018-9-11 21:57:11 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The winged giant that was bigger than T. Rex
阿氏翼龙:比雷克斯暴龙还大的有翼巨物

Mark Witton is a paleobiologist on a mission. He says more people should know about one spectacular flying animal that lived more than 65 million years ago: Arambourgiania philadelphiae.

维顿(Mark Witton)是一个有使命感的古生物学家。他说应该有更多的人了解一种生活在6500万年以前的雄伟的翼龙:阿氏翼龙。

Arambourgiania was a pterosaur – a group of reptiles that includes pterodactyls but which is distinct from dinosaurs. It lived during the Late Cretaceous period, at the same time as Tyrannosaurus rex. Like T. rex, Arambourgiania was big. With an estimated wingspan of around 10m and an unusually long neck, it was one of the largest flying organisms that ever lived - basically the size of a small plane.

阿氏翼龙属于翼龙——翼龙是一组包括翼手龙在内的爬行动物,和恐龙完全是两种不同的动物。翼龙生存于晚白垩纪,与雷克斯暴龙属于同一时代。像雷克斯暴龙一样,阿氏翼龙体型硕大。阿氏翼龙的翼展估计约为10米,颈部长度异乎寻常,是曾经生存过最大的会飞行的动物之一——大致上是一架小型飞机的大小。

“A flying animal with a giraffe-like neck,” says Witton, who is based at the University of Portsmouth. “That’s pretty remarkable.”

"一种会飞的动物,有像长颈鹿一样的颈部,"在朴茨茅斯大学工作的维顿说。"那相当不寻常。"

Not long ago, Witton wrote a blog post claiming that Arambourgiania deserved a “fan club”. He pointed out that a number other large pterosaurs from the same period, like Quetzalcoatlus northropi, are generally more well known.

不久前,维顿发布博客称阿氏翼龙值得拥有"粉丝团"。他指出,同时期的一些其它大型翼龙通常更为人知,比如风神翼龙。

It’s possible that Arambourgiania may have been slightly smaller overall, but it is special for another reason. We know that its neck may have been nearly three metres in length.

很有可能阿氏翼龙的体型总的来说也许较小,但是阿氏翼龙另有特别之处。我们知道,它的颈部长度也许将近3米。

“It’s about double the length of what we’d see in another giant pterosaur,” explains Witton.

维顿解释道,"这几乎是我们在别的大型翼龙那里所见到的两倍的长度。"

It’s hard to say much for certain about this impressive species of pterosaur, but what we know about its neck is based on one of a few surviving fossils – a vertebra, in this case a neck bone. Mysteriously, no-one knows when it was discovered because documentation did not survive with it, but Witton thinks it was likely back in the 1930s or early 1940s. We do know that it was found in Jordan and that the specimen was written about in a 1954 paper by Camille Arambourg, the French palaeontologist from whom the pterosaur gets its name.

关于这种了不起的翼龙物种,很难确凿地讲很多,但是我们对其颈部的了解是有根据的,证明来自现存的少数化石之一——椎骨,这里说的是颈椎。神秘的是,没有人知道阿氏翼龙颈椎骨的发现时间,因为有关文献记载没有保存下来,但维顿认为,可能追溯到上世纪30年代或40年代初期。我们知道的是在约旦发现,1954年法国考古学家阿拉姆氏(Camille Arambourg)就此标本撰写论文,这种翼龙的署名即以阿氏为名。

The fossil itself is a long, thin tubular bone that indicates the animal’s neck would have been massive and probably quite inflexible.

这个化石是一种管状形的细长颈椎,表明翼龙的颈部可能很巨大,也可能相当为僵硬。

“Like a pole on the end of a plane,” says Michael Habib, a palaeontologist at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

"就像飞机尾翼的支杆,"南加州大学凯克医学院的考古学家哈比卜(Michael Habib)说。

“That of course is quite interesting because we’re not particularly accustomed to seeing animals with long, relatively inflexible necks that fly,” he adds.

他补充说,"那当然比较有趣,因为我们很少见到颈部狭长而又比较僵硬的会飞的动物"。

“It wasn’t super flexible like the neck of a heron or swan.”

"它不是像鹭或天鹅的颈部那样极易弯曲。"

For a man-made plane made of metal, having so much mass out in front would be a problem, but Habib explains that a flying animal can compensate for balance during flight by adjusting its wings and shoulders. This is probably what Arambourgiania and other giant pterosaurs with a similar profile did. Fossil skulls suggest that these creatures often had freakishly large heads, though they would have been lighter than they looked thanks to their thin but rigid bone structure.

对于一架由金属制成的人造飞机,把这么大一部分放在机头会出问题,但是哈比卜解释说,会飞的动物可以通过调节翼部和肩部,在飞行中起到平衡作用。阿氏翼龙及其动物分类中同类的大型翼龙可能就是这样飞行的。翼龙头骨化石显示,这些动物往往有相当巨大的怪异头部,不过因为骨骼薄而骨质硬,头骨实际可能会比看上去要轻巧很多。

Besides the vertebra, we also have some additional fossils that likely came from Arambourgiania, including the end of a wing bone, or phalanx. These help reveal a bit more about what this ancient flier looked like.

除了颈椎,我们还有其他可能来自阿氏翼龙的化石,包括一节翼端骨头,或指骨。这些化石有助于披露这种远古飞翔动物的更多面貌。

Witton notes that far more fossil material survives for species like Quetzalcoatlus northropi, which helps to explain why that species has been more widely written about in the press and discussed in museum exhibitions. But new material does turn up all the time, leaving open the possibility that we may soon know much more about Arambourgiania than we do today. For example, in an intriguing development last year that is yet to be peer-reviewed, researchers at the University of Michigan found several new fossils that they say belong to the pterosaur.

维顿指出,像风神翼龙等物种的化石资料,保存下来的甚多,这能解释为什么这类翼龙比较多的出现在在出版物中及博物馆的展品中。由于一直不断有新的化石出土,很有可能我们对阿氏翼龙的认识很快就会比今天所知要增加不少。例如,去年密西根大学的研究人员发现几种新化石,他们说属于翼龙。这个有趣研究尚有待于同行评审。

More material means paleobiologists are better able to infer how these giants may have actually lived – including how they moved and flew.

更多的化石发现意味着古生物学家能够更好地推测这些巨物到底是如何生存的——包括它们如何移动与飞行。

Habib says that there are certain things we can rule out about a pterosaur like Arambourgiania, just because of its massive size. It wouldn’t have been a creature that constantly flapped to stay aloft, for example, because this would have required too much energy. It also wouldn’t have been highly manoeuvrable – especially with that pole-like neck. However, Arambourgiania was likely able to soar for long periods and may even have had a flight range so big that it could essentially travel the world. One bit of evidence that hints at this is that we continue to find giant pterosaur fossils, of various species, in many different regions – from Eastern Europe to North America, the Middle East and Asia. “[If they had a global range] you should tend to find them all over the place – and we do, overall,” says Habib.

哈比卜说,关于翼龙,如阿氏翼龙,由于其巨大的体型,有一些确定的方面我们可以排除掉。例如,翼龙不可能是一种常常要拍动翅膀来保持空中飞行的动物,因为这样会消耗太多的能量。它也不可能非常灵巧地活动——尤其有那种像支杆的颈部。然而,翼龙可能会长时间地高飞,甚至飞行距离如此之大,以至于可以飞往世界各地。暗示这种情况的一点证据是,在世界许多不同的地区——从东欧到北美、中东和亚洲,我们都不断发现各种的翼龙化石。哈比卜说,"(如果它们有环球飞行的里程)你应该会在世界各地都可能找到它们——大致上看,我们的确有这样的发现。"

Pterosaurs are much more than just pterodactyls, then. And this fact is partly why Witton wants to celebrate Arambourgiania. Like T. rex or woolly mammoths, it’s a species that members of the public should know about, besides just academic researchers, he says. After all, it too is part of the long and varied history of our planet.

而且翼龙远远不只有翼手龙。这也是维顿希望为阿氏翼龙而喝彩的部分原因。他说,像雷克斯霸王龙和长毛猛犸象这类远古动物,不仅是学术研究人员,公众也应该了解认识它们。毕竟,它们也是我们星球漫长的历史演变的一部分。

Plus, there is significant street cred up for grabs for any new fans of Arambourgiania, he points out. “If you’re in the Arambourgiania fan club, you could genuinely say you liked giant pterosaurs before they were cool,” he jokes. “You’re a more hard-core pterosaur fan.”

此外,他指出,对于阿氏翼龙吸收粉丝的欲望,有重要的行业信誉。他开玩笑地说,"如果你属于阿氏翼龙的粉丝团,你可以真的说你在大型翼龙走红前已经喜欢上它们,因此你是比铁杆还铁杆的翼龙粉丝。"

So go on, be like Arambourgiania. Stick your neck out.

那么接下来,作为粉丝,像阿氏翼龙那样,把你的脖子伸出来。

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