Regardless of species, all baby birds need time before they're ready to leave the nest, from a few weeks for some smaller species, to months for some larger ones. However, more than 100 million years ago, there were some fliers that didn't get a chance to mature before taking off. Pterodactyls -- those gigantic flying reptiles that feature in so many prehistoric-themed movies -- could fly from birth, according to recent research conducted at the University of Leicester in the UK. Studying fossilized embryos, the researchers were able to determine that the young, unhatched pterodactyls were much more advanced than what is normally found in the eggs of birds and crocodiles. In other words, they were built to take wing as soon as they hatched. One of the researchers, paleobiologist David Unwin, said the findings went against everything that has been previously understood about birds and flight. "Theoretically what pterosaurs did, growing and flying, is impossible – but they didn't know this, so they did it anyway,” he said. One of the reasons for the need to fly at such an early age was a lack of parental care. Unlike modern birds, pterodactyls were on their own from the start, so they had to quickly learn to evade predators and catch their own prey.
- The word "pterodactyl" is a generic term commonly given to either of two types of pterosaur.
- Today's birds descended from meat-eating dinosaurs, not reptilians like the pterodactyl, which didn't even have feathers.
- Pterodactyls probably walked on four legs, not two like modern birds.