All About Pterodactylus

More About Pterodactylus

Although most Pterosaurs were relatively small, there was a giant Pterosaur found here in North America. This was Quetzalcoatlus, and he was huge!

More About Quetzalcoatlus

Quetzalcoatlus was a pterodactyloid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous of North America and Quetzalcoatlusone of the largest known flying animals of all time. It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks. Its name comes from the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl.

When it was first discovered, scientists estimated that the largest Quetzalcoatlus fossils came from an individual with a wingspan as large as 52 feet, choosing the middle of three extrapolations from the proportions of other pterosaurs that gave an estimate of 36 feet, 50.85 feet, 68.9 feet. In 1981, further study lowered these estimates to 36–39 feet. More recent estimates based on greater knowledge of azhdarchid proportions place its wingspan at 33–36 feet.

Mass estimates for giant azhdarchids are extremely problematic because no existing species share a similar size or body plan, and in consequence published results vary widely. While some studies have historically found extremely low weight estimates for Quetzalcoatlus, as low as 150 pounds for a 32-foot-10-inch individual, a majority of estimates published since the 2000s have been higher, around 440–550 pounds.

Skull material (from smaller specimens, possibly a related species) shows that Quetzalcoatlus had a very sharp and pointed beak. That is contrary to some earlier reconstructions that showed a blunter snout, based on the inadvertent inclusion of jaw material from another pterosaur species, possibly a tapejarid or a form related to Tupuxuara. A skull crest was also present but its exact form and size are still unknown.

Quetzalcoatlus were more likely terrestrial stalkers, similar to modern storks, and probably hunted small vertebrates on land or in small streams. Though Quetzalcoatlus, like other pterosaurs, was a quadruped when on the ground, Quetzalcoatlus and other azhdarchids have fore and hind limb proportions more similar to modern running ungulate mammals than to their smaller cousins, implying that they were uniquely suited to a terrestrial lifestyle.

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