Pterosaur Planet

Prehistoric Life

Picture a world with a warm, humid climate extending as far north as present-day Alaska. In this Mesozoic Eden, luxuriant groves of cycads and tree ferns and seemingly endless forests of conifers rang to the crash of ever-browsing herds of truck-heavy, bus-sized sauropod dinosaurs. Wreaking swathes of destruction, these mountains of flesh were trailed by quick, bright-eyed, hook-clawed theropods, ceaselessly eyeing the sick, the young and the unwary. Offshore, schools of Leedsichthys, each fish...

Ornithocheiroids Built for a Life on the Wing The ornitho

Cheiroids, several of which are shown in Figure 4-10, were a diverse, important and highly distinctive group of Cretaceous pterosaurs. Among them were several of the most spectacular animals ever to take to the skies, not least Pteranodon, which, with its long, pointed jaws and bizarre crest, is an icon for flying reptiles the world over. Unlike rhamphorhynchoids, but practically without exception among the main pterodactyloid clans, all known orni-thocheiroids were well over 1 meter (3 feet)...

Tree For Pterosaurs

Shaded from the glaring sun beneath the canopy of several tree ferns, insects whined and hummed in the stifling heat of yet another cloudless Triassic day. A large, metallic green dragonfly, wings whirring, detached itself from the tip of a dead twig and began its patrol back and forth, occasionally darting from its path to grab some slow-flying victim. Returning to its perch, it dismembered its prey, then swooped back into the air lord of the skies, the biggest thing on the wing. At (east,...

Considering Medusa

The storm had been coming for days, and when it hit, its ferocity was overwhelming. The normally placid waters of the lagoon were whipped into a maelstrom, while the trees and shrubs that clothed the archipelago of low islands were blown this way and that. Some, torn from their roots, whirled off toward the horizon. Pterosaurs, who normally rode out storms on the wing, fought vainly for control and found themselves being rudely tossed around the sky. A big, old male seeking escape by climbing...

Jurassic

Cycad Continental Drift

Main continental land masses and oceans are shown for the Upper Triassic top , Upper Jurassic middle and Upper Cretaceous bottom . The red dots pinpoint locations where pterosaurs were fossilized. cycads and conifers, some reaching 30 or 40 meters 120 feet high. Among them was a new type of cycad, the bennettitalean, with a short trunk and a well-developed bush-like crown. This particular cycad was so extraordinarily successful that it ended up completely dominating the flora and waxed so...

Quetzalcoatlus and Other Toothless Terrors The azhdarchoids

Pterosaurs

May be the last branch on our tree, but they are most certainly not the least, because among their number they include the largest flying creatures of all time Quetzalcoatlus. Most members of the azhdarchoid clan have only come to light in the last two decades, and the group itself was first recognized just over 20 years ago. As in many other pterosaurs, the most distinctive features of this clan are to be found in the skull, which is depicted in Figure 4.13. The complete absence of teeth, a...

Head Inside

Coloborhynchus Robustus

Sweeping low over the crowded beach, the big male Tupuxuara presented a magnificent sight. It was not just the white-tipped wings, wider than three lanes of traffic, and it was not just the skull, as long as a javelin and with jaw tips to match. It was, above all else, the extraordinary, the magnificent, the show-stopping crest. It towered above the skull, rising up from its roots on the forehead into a huge sail, flaming red at the front, then shading to maroon at the apex and the rear. As he...

Rhamphorhynchus and the True Prow Beaks The last and most

Dorygnathus

Evolved group of long-tailed pterosaurs, the rhamphorhynchids, was not only one of the longest-lived and most diverse clans, but also gave rise to several large species, individuals of which grew to almost 3 meters about 10 feet in wingspan. Early in its history, this clan split into two quite different lineages On the one branch were rhamphorhynchines, distinguished by a formidable-looking array of fang-like teeth that splayed forward and outward from the jaws to form a fish-snagging tooth...

Dimorphodon and the Short Winged Big Heads Starting at the

Eudimorphodon

Base of the tree, the first branch encountered belongs to Dimorphodon and its relatives Figure 4.6 . As might be expected from their basement location, dimorphodontids,39 with their large, reptilian-looking skulls and relatively broad wings, are the least evolved of all pterosaurs known at present. Often reaching well over a meter in wingspan, the most distinctive feature of members of this clan is summarized in their name dimorphodontids. This refers to the two strikingly different types of...

Dragons Of The

Bird Antaomy Wingspan

The dragon blinked in the fierce light of the sun as it emerged from the clouds and banked hard, its tremendous wings arching under the load. Reflected in a massive dark eye, the world below slowly tilted into view. Vast herds of dinosaurs were strung out across a dusty yellow-orange plain, occasionally gathered in knots where they had stopped to feed on patches of stunted vegetation. Then came marshes and the dragon focused a long, still, clear-blue lake. In its glassy depths, rainbow-hued...