PTEROSAURS

Pterosaurs are not dinosaurs but share a common ancestor with dinosaurs. Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates that could actually fly, take of from the ground and sustain their flight. They were masters of the sky long before birds came about and they are the largest animals to have ever flown on Earth.

Here is an overview of all the pterosaurs in chronological sequence encountered by Lucy and her dad during their time travel adventure in Dinosaurs@Dusk.

Eudimorphodon

210 - 203 MA

Eudimorphodon was a pterosaur that was discovered in 1973 by Mario Pandolfi near Bergamo, Italy and described the same year by Rocco Zambelli. The nearly complete skeleton was retrieved from shale deposited during the Late Triassic (mid to late Norian stage), making Eudimorphodon the oldest pterosaur then known. It had a wingspan of about 100 centimetres (3.3 ft) and at the end of its long bony tail may have been a diamond-shaped flap like in the later Rhamphorhynchus. If so, the flap may have helped it steer while maneuvering in the air. Eudimorphodon is known from several skeletons, including juvenile specimens.

Eudimorphodon showed a strong differentiation of the teeth, hence its name, which is derived from ancient Greek for "true dimorphic tooth". It also possessed a large number of these teeth, a total of 110 of them densely packed into a jaw only six centimeters long. The front of the jaw was filled with fangs, per side four in the upper jaw, two in the lower jaw, that rather abruptly gave way to a line of smaller multipointed teeth, 25 in the upper jaw, 26 in the lower jaw, most of which had five cusps, others three or even four.

Ramphorchynchus

150 - 148 MA

Rhamphorhynchus, "beak snout", is a genus of long-tailed pterosaurs in the Jurassic period. Less specialized than contemporary, short-tailed pterodactyloid pterosaurs such as Pterodactylus, it had a long tail, stiffened with ligaments, which ended in a characteristic diamond-shaped vane. The jaws of Rhamphorhynchus housed needle-like teeth, which were angled forward, with a curved, sharp, beak-like tip lacking teeth, indicating a diet mainly of fish and insects.

Although fragmentary fossil remains possibly belonging to Rhamphorhynchus have been found in England, Tanzania, and Spain, the best preserved specimens come from the Solnhofen limestone of Bavaria, Germany. Many of these fossils preserve not only the bones but impressions of soft tissues such as wing membranes. Scattered teeth believed to belong to Rhamphorhynchus have been found in Portugal as well.

Tupandactylus

112 MA

Tupandactylus (meaning "Tupan finger", in reference to the Tupi thunder god) is a genus of tapejarid pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Crato Formation of Brazil. It is notable for its large cranial crest, composed partly of bone and partly of soft tissue. The Tupandactylus genus possibly contains two species, both bearing differently sized/shaped crests that may have been used to signal and display for other Tupandactylus, much as toucans use their bright bills to signal to one another. Tupandactylus crests consisted of a semicircular crest over the snout, and in the case of the type species T. imperator, a bony prong which extended back behind the head. A second species, T. navigans, lacked this prong, and had a much more vertical crest. Soft tissue impressions also show that the small bony crests were extended by a much larger structure made of a keratinous material. The complete crest of T. navigans rose in a sharp, sail-like "dome" high above the rest of the skull.




Quetzalcoatlus

68 - 65.5 MA

Quetzalcoatlus was a pterodactyloid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous of North America (Maastrichtian stage) and one 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 15.9 meters (52.2 feet), choosing the middle of three extrapolations from the proportions of other pterosaurs that gave an estimate of 11, 15.5 and 21 meters respectively (36 feet, 50.85 feet, 68.9 feet). In 1981, further study lowered these estimates to 11-12 meters (36-39 feet). More recent estimates based on greater knowledge of azhdarchid proportions place its wingspan at 10-11 meters (33-36 ft). 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 70 kilograms (150 lb) for a 10-meter (33 ft) individual, a majority of estimates published since the 2000s have been higher, around 200-250 kilograms (440-550 lb).

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