Meet the bite-sized winged beastie sharovipteryx or ‘sharov’s wing’ as it roughly translates, hailing from the time of the first dinosaurs and crocodilians or the ‘big snappy jawed lizardy thingamujigs that will eat anything whatever they are called’. A time, it should be duly noted, when it was a remarkably bad period for being a bite-sized winged beastie… thankfully sharovipteryx had an idea.
Honking great legs are a marvellous plan if you are going to live through the chomping years, running like the blazes being a rather good idea. Not short on bloody good idea’s old sharovipteryx had some extras bobbed in, wings on its legs to be precise, swooping off like your life depended on it was a tip top plan… not least because it did.
What is of course remarkable is that sharovipteryx’s wings were on his back legs. He was most definitely a glider rather than a flyer. It may also have been that he used his big clawed back feet to run up trees and glide off away from anything that would think him a satisfactory brunch. Our little swooping chum may well have been the ancestor of the pterosaurs; the first flying vertebrates and the largest flying creatures ever, the biggest attaining the size of a biplane… sadly for our flying snack it was a few years until these honking great brutes appeared.
In these modern days of remarkable design… when one can take an airship across the Atlantic in just five days… when the continued march of miniaturisation means that one can make rudimentary mathematical calculations with a machine just a bit smaller than your average three bed semi-detached… we’re simply not used to seeing such a silly set up. Though upon ruminating on the concept it’s not so silly, or indeed archaic, the design is exactly like a canard; a plane with a small wing at the front to help with lift, control or to reduce turbulence. Indeed the Wright brother’s rather lauded first flyer was a lift canard aeroplane… even modern fighter jets are configured in this manner. Thankfully, unlike our chum sharivopteryx, there is nothing around big enough to eat the buggers.