A new study has revealed that pterosaurs was the ultimate flying champ of the dinosaur era, and could clock up to 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) at a stretch.
The huge animals likely relied on updrafts of warm air and wind currents to achieve their record distances, said Michael Habib, a palaeontologist at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.
"They probably only flapped for a few minutes at a time ... and then their muscles had to recover. In between, they''re going to use un-powered flight," National Geographic News quoted Habib as saying.
"They''re basically burning off the equivalent of a good-size human on each trip," he added.
The findings would seem to contradict past studies that suggested large pterosaurs had problems just getting off the ground due to their massive sizes.
Habib and colleagues think that—like some modern bats—large pterosaurs may have used all four limbs to launch themselves into the air before flapping their wings.
However, Alexander Kellner, a pterosaur expert at Brazil''s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, has his doubts because there are several things scientists still don''t know about pterosaur body structure that could affect flight distance calculations.
One particularly well-preserved Chinese pterosaur fossil, for example, has wing membranes made up of multiple layers of structural fibers unlike anything found in a living animal.
"We are not sure what the composition of those [fibers] is, but we can say that they have a tremendous influence in the flight of those creatures," Kellner said in an email.
"If [giant pterosaurs] could fly very far, that might change how scientists think about their distribution," Habib said.
Habib presented his work this week at the annual Society for Vertebrate Palaeontology meeting in Pittsburgh.