Pterodactyls are pretty incredible creatures with sharp teeth, long tails, and webbed feet. This flying reptile is one you did not want to mess with! The coolest thing about this creature is it’s not a dinosaur!
Since the pterodactyls could fly and their front limbs stretched out to the side, they are a distant cousin of the dinosaurs! So you won’t see the word dinosaur used much in this article!
Information on Pterodactyls
The word Pterodactyl comes from the Greek word pterodaktulos meaning winged finger. This flying creature got its name because of the long wings that ended in long fingers. The fourth finger was connected to the wings. This allowed them to control their flight and hunt at the same time.
The pterosaur was a specific category of reptiles, and the Pterodactyls fell under this category. These wing lizards first appeared in the sky during the late Triassic period to the end of the Cretaceous Period. This was a long time! Fossil records show they may have evolved from small, wingless reptiles called lagerpetids.
The Pterodactyl lived specifically during the late Jurassic period or the age of the dinosaurs most of us know about. They lived alongside Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus. Although this specific pterosaur was not alive during the Mesozoic era, different species of pterosaurs were.
Common Traits of Pterodactyls
Many people believe pterodactyls and other pterosaurs evolved into modern birds. This is not the case. The wings of the Pterodactyl had long hollow bones, and these long bones made it easier for them to fly. Although the bones of a Pterodactyl are very similar to the bones of today’s birds, most birds evolved from dinosaurs, not pterosaurs.
The Pterodactyl had a long beak, short hind legs, and a short tail. The Pterodactyl’s back legs were not as helpful to them as their wings. These creatures often did not walk. When they did walk, they waddled on their hind limbs or legs and used their long wings for balance. The wingspan of a pterodactyl could range from 6.5 to 36 feet. This means they could have been the size of a small car to the size of a small plane. Wow!
Many had hooked claws and sharp teeth that they used to grab their prey. They ate small animals and were also fish eaters.
If you can believe it, the first fossils found of Pterodactyls were juveniles or young Pterodactyls. The only full fossils of Pterodactyls have only been young Pterodactyls. No full adult fossil has been found. The only adult fossil found was of the head. Many paleontologists or scientists who study dinosaurs believe this is because of their feather thin bones, which make it harder to extract them from the stone.
The first pterodactyl fossil was found in Bavaria, Germany, and 30 fossils were found in limestone formations. In the 1800s, using the fossils found in Germany, french zoologist Georges Cuvier drew what he would name the Ptero-Dactyle in 1809. This drawing was the first known member of the pterosaur.
Interesting Facts About Pterosaurs
The Pterodactyl was a pretty outrageous reptile. Other members of the pterosaur order were pretty cool too!
The largest pterosaurs were the Quetzalcoatlus. This creature is thought to have been the size of a giraffe with a long neck. It had thin limbs, a very long beak, and a 40-foot wingspan. The wingspan was about the size of a semi-truck! Not much is known about this pterosaur because it has been hard to extract its hollow bones from the rock. A fossil of the Quetzalcoatlus was found in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
A small pterosaur was the Nemicolopterus. This little pterosaur had the same features as a Pterodactyl but was much smaller. Their wingspan was only believed to be about 10 inches long, the size of 2 soda cans put together. The fossil found was a young Nemicolopterus, so the wingspan may have been bigger once it reached adulthood. The only fossil of the Nemicolopterus found was in China. It is believed this pterosaur lived with the later pterosaurs because of its toothless jaw.
Quick Fun Facts
Here are some quick fun facts about pterosaurs and Pterodactyls.
- Cosimo Alessandro Collini described the first pterosaur in 1784
- The smallest Pterodactyls were the babies, and they were named flaplings.
- Pterodactyl’s back legs also had fingers on them.
- Pterodactyls had a shorter tail than other Pterosaurs.
- Pterosaurs were the first creatures to fly after insects. Not just glide/jump but flap their wings for flight.
- There have been multiple “sightings” of Pterodactyls in the United States. Many believe they are not extinct.
Fun Dinosaur Facts
Scientists are finding out new information about dinosaurs every day. One big discovery is how pterosaurs and dinosaurs were different. Here are some of the similarities and significant differences between dinosaurs and pterosaurs.
- Dinosaurs and pterosaurs are different because of their hip and arm bones
- Dinosaurs and pterosaurs are distant cousins.
- Dinosaurs and pterosaurs are part of the Archosauria family. This family includes crocodiles.
- DNA cannot be used to determine when dinosaurs and pterosaurs first split into two different families.
Pterodactyls are some of the most fantastic flying creatures that ever flew during the time of the dinosaurs. Although they were distant cousins of the giant walking creatures, they are still some of the most fascinating reptiles. Whether you believe they are still flying in the sky today or want to start digging for fossils, we can call agree Pterodactyls are pretty cool!