When pterosaurs get eaten by, well, all sorts of things, Mark Witton
The beach is a place for treasure hunters. The sand is always crawling with worms and crabs and creeping things, and the water is always throwing up some refuse—sheets of dead fish, smelling both rancid and sweet; driftwood; clamshells; stones. These last three are not for eating, but morsels like to hide under them.
The azhdarchid is old. The once vibrant crimson and azure crest has dulled to brown and dirty blue. Its hair is patchy and something inside isn’t working properly. Old pistons and pumps and valves worn out or cancerous. Parasites run rampant in its gut, and an overgrown yeast creates lesions at the edges of its mouth. The giant pterosaur wanders along the bank, dragging its forelimbs through the sand. It stumbles a bit when it steps on some driftwood. After its belabored stroll, it pauses. There is a distant look in its clouded eyes, like it’s gazing at something behind the sand. Then it collapses like a tree, head crashing to the beach, wing tips flopping in the chilly water.
It doesn’t take long for the flies to find it. The birds come next, pecking at the old thing’s hide—as well as the fatter flies. The commotion attracts the dromaeosaur troop. They’re always watchful of the birds. Birds are excellent at finding things, and they can’t help but be loud about discoveries. The dinosaurs are aggressive in rending the meat, yanking strips from the thighs and breast, nipping at a leathery wing.
A shadow skirts over the scene and dark pterosaur lands beside the carcass. It’s not a giant like the dead azhdarchid, but it’s bigger than the dromaeosaurs. The birds ignore it, but the dromaeosaurs are wary. It strides at them silently, swaying its sharp bill, eyeing the feathered dinosaurs coldly, its irises pale blue, pupils like tiny drops of ink on icy pools. The newcomer’s menacing silence is louder than the squawking birds, and two of the dromaeosaurs move away, azhdarchid bits dangling from their jaws. Normally it would wait for the scavengers to finish and then pick at the scraps, but this pterosaur is hungry and moves to steal directly from the dinosaurs’ mouths. When they move out of reach, it lunges its long bill at the chatty birds. Most of them scatter, but the pterosaur manages to pluck a clumsier one from the sand and swallows it whole.
The following morning, only some sandy, scattered bones remain which the treasure hunters flip, looking for shy snails.
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