Wings on Hind Legs

Where is the right place for wings?  or ?

Wings of birds and bats are actually front legs that were transformed for flying. Wings of pterodactyles also originated from front legs. But Sharovipterix had wings on its hind legs! Bone structure indicates that Sharovipterix could not be an active flyer. But it could be a glider. Dr. Allan Edward Munro thinks that its front legs are too small for climbing trees. It is also possibile that Sharovipterix jumped as a grasshopper and used the membrane for maneuvering in the air and for extenting the jump. The membrane could be used also for display. Detailed information on the evolution of flight in animals can be found at UC Museum of Paleontology, Berkley.

Sharovipterix (initially discribed as Podopterix) was discovered by my father, Alexander Sharov in 1960-s. My father was interested mostly in fossil insects (see review), but occasionally he found small reptiles and pterosaurs that were fossilized together with insects.

These are remains of the Sharovipterix mirabilis and the reconstruction of an animal.

Sharovipterix mirabilis

Click this button to see photos

Besides Sharovipterix, Alexander Sharov found some other amazing fossil reptiles.

Longisquama insignis, had long paired feather-like scales on its back which could be used for parachuting and/or display. John Ruben of Oregon State University thinks that scales of Longisquama are real feathers, and that Longisquama could be a bird ancestor (see Science, June 2000, pp. 2124 and p2202). Longisquama pre-dates Archaeopteryx by 75 million years and may provide new insight into the evolution of modern birds.

Longisquama insignis

Click this button to see photos

For additional information on Longisquama see:

Another reptile, Sordes pilosus is a hairy rhamphorinch (order Rhamphorinchoidei)

Sordes pilosus

These examples show numerous attempts of vertebrate animals to fly.


Sharov, A. G. 1966. Unique findings of reptiles from Mesozoic sediments of Middle Asia. Bullutin of Moscow Society of Researchers of Nature (Bulleten MOIP) 61: 145-146 (in Russian).
Sharov, A. G. 1970. Peculiar reptile from low Trias of Fergana. Paleontological Journal (Paleontologicheskii zhurnal) no. 1, pp. 127-130 (in Russian).
Sharov, A. G. 1971. New flying Mesozoic reptiles from Kazahstan and Kirgizija. Proceedings of Paleontological Institute, USSR Academy of Sciences (Paleontologicheskii institut Akademii nauk SSSR. Trudy) 130: 104-113 (in Russian)
Cowen, R. 1981. Homonyms of Podopterix. J. Paleontol. 55: 483.
Gans, C., I. S. Darevski, and L. P. Tatarinov. 1987. Sharovipterix, a reptilian glider? Paleobiology 13: 415-426.
Peters, D. 2000. A reexamination of four prolacertiforms with implications for Pterosaur phylogenesis. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 106(3): 293-336.
Shcherbakov, D. E. 2008. Madygen, Triassic Lagerstätte number one, before and after Sharov. Alavesia, 2: 113-124.

Alexei Sharov 04/14/98