A new study has revealed that pterodactyls, which went extinct along with the dinosaurs millions of years ago, had the ability to fly from birth. The significance of this breakthrough discovery is highlighted by the fact that no other vertebrates in the history of life on Earth have had the ability to fly from birth.

According to researchers, this discovery can shed light on how pterodactyls and dinosaurs lived and functioned. Prior to this study, it was believed that, like bats and birds, pterodactyls could only fly after becoming a full-grown adult. However, the new study, which involved researchers analyzing fossilized embryos of pterodactyls found in China, and comparing it to prenatal data of birds, revealed that the prehistoric creatures had the ability to fly at a much earlier stage of development.

"Theoretically what pterosaurs did, growing and flying, is impossible, but they didn't know this, so they did it anyway,” said Dr David Unwin, a University of Leicester palaeobiologist, one of the researchers of the study.

The researches discovered that unlike birds, baby pterodactyls did not receive any parental care after they were born and had to fend for themselves for food and shelter.

Researchers believe that the ability to fly at birth let baby pterodactyls survive in a hostile environment, helping them evade carnivorous dinosaurs. Pterodactyls' ability to fly from birth could explain how the prehistoric creatures were able to achieve massive wingspans.

Artist's conception of how the footprints of the duck-billed dinosaurs were formed nearly 70 million years ago. Karen Carr/Perot Museum via Live Science

“Our technique shows that pterosaurs were different from birds and bats and so comparative anatomy can reveal novel developmental modes in extinct species,” Dr Charles Deeming, a zoologist at the University of Lincoln, said.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.