Facts about Pterosaurs, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs



Pterosaur
Click here for more Pterosaur Pictures

Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Sauropsida
  (unranked) Archosauria
  Order Pterosauria
Pterosaurs (which means "winged lizard") which are also sometimes popularly known as "Pterodactyls" (which means "winged finger") were winged reptiles that evolved during the late Triassic period, about 220 million years ago, and survived until the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction, about 65 million years ago. Although contemporary with the dinosaurs, Pterosaurs were not dinosaurs, although they were also members of the Archosaur group of reptiles (the group that also includes dinosaurs, birds, crocodilians, and Champsosaurs).

The smallest Pterosaurs were about the size of a small bird, but the largest, such as Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of as much as 36 feet (11 meters). Most (or perhaps even) all smaller Pterosaur species seemed to have died out before the end of the Cretaceous period, and it is thought that this might have been due to competition from birds. By the time of the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction, only the Pterosaurs survived, and these of course died out during that extinction.

Pterosaurs evolved flight independently and separately from birds, but incorporated a number of bird-like features. Their bones were hollow and air filled, which reduced their weight, that had breastbone to which they flight muscles were attached, and they seem to have brain adaptations which would have helped them fly. It was once thought that Pterosaurs were mainly gliders, but today many scientists believe that atleast some species were active flyers.

Pterosaurs wings were a membrane that stretched from an elongated fourth finger of each arm, and joined to the body. Some paleontologists have argued that the wing membrane would also have joined to the hind limbs, but others say this would not have been the case - it is also possible that the extent of the wing membrane depended on the particular species. It is also known that atleast some Pterosaurs had webbed feet, and while it is possible that these may have been used for swimming, it is also possible that they may have assisted in flying.

There is also evidence that at least some species of Pterosaurs had hair. Pterosaur hair evolved independently of mammalian hair, and would have a different structure, although similar function to that of a mammals. The presence of hair suggests that Pterosaurs were probably warm-blooded ("endothermic").

When walking on the ground, Pterosaurs probably had a semi-erect posture. There was once much debate about whether they walked on two legs (bipedally) or four legs (quadrupedally), but fossil tracks that have been found, show they were quadrupeds.

The first Pterosaur fossil was found in 1784 by Cosimo Collini, who believed he had found a sea creature (although the eminent naturalist Georges Cuvier suggested that Pterosaurs were flying creatures as early as 1801, the aquatic hypothesis about the creatures continued to be supported by some scientists until at least the 1830s). Other early discoveries include a find of the Pterosaur Dimorphodon by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, England in 1828.

Today, at least 60 different genera of Pterosaurs are known, and fossil have been found in every continent except Antarctica. Since Pterosaur bones were hollow, unfortunately they tended to be crushed when buried under sediments, so many fossils are poorly preserved. However, fortunately there is an exception - for some unknown reason the bones in Pterosaurs found in the Araripe Plateau in Brazil were not crushed during the fossilization process. Additionally, as already noted, fossil Pterosaur trackways have been found. Furthermore, one fossil Pterosaur egg has been found - which although squashed, was not cracked (suggesting Pterosaur eggs were soft and leathery) - contained an embryo containing well-developed wing membranes.

Because Pterosaur fossils are not always well-preserved, and there are many gaps in the fossil record, there has been much debate about how Pterosaurs evolved, and how to classify them. Traditionally, Pterosaurs are generally classified into two suborders - the Rhamphorhynchoidea, which were "primitive" Pterosaurs, with long tails and fingers adapted to climbing - and the Pterodactyloidea, which were "advanced" Pterosaurs, with shorter tails, long wing metacarpals.

Fossils of Pterosaurs have been found around the world including in England, Norway, the united States, Mexico, South America, and Australia.

Pterosaurs Timeline:



Pterosaurs were winged reptiles that lived between 220 and 65 million years ago

Pterosaurs were winged reptiles that lived between 220 and 65 million years ago


Related Information & Resources


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Pterosaur Books


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Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy
By Mark P. Witton

imusti
Hardcover (304 pages)

Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy
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  • Princeton University Press
Product Description:

For 150 million years, the skies didn't belong to birds--they belonged to the pterosaurs. These flying reptiles, which include the pterodactyls, shared the world with the nonavian dinosaurs until their extinction 65 million years ago. Some pterosaurs, such as the giant azhdarchids, were the largest flying animals of all time, with wingspans exceeding thirty feet and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes. This richly illustrated book takes an unprecedented look at these astonishing creatures, presenting the latest findings on their anatomy, ecology, and extinction.



Pterosaurs features some 200 stunning illustrations, including original paintings by Mark Witton and photos of rarely seen fossils. After decades of mystery, paleontologists have finally begun to understand how pterosaurs are related to other reptiles, how they functioned as living animals, and, despite dwarfing all other flying animals, how they managed to become airborne. Here you can explore the fossil evidence of pterosaur behavior and ecology, learn about the skeletal and soft-tissue anatomy of pterosaurs, and consider the newest theories about their cryptic origins. This one-of-a-kind book covers the discovery history, paleobiogeography, anatomy, and behaviors of more than 130 species of pterosaur, and also discusses their demise at the end of the Mesozoic.


  • The most comprehensive book on pterosaurs ever published

  • Features some 200 illustrations, including original paintings by the author

  • Covers every known species and major group of pterosaurs

  • Describes pterosaur anatomy, ecology, behaviors, diversity, and more

  • Encourages further study with 500 references to primary pterosaur literature

On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight
By David E. Alexander

Oxford University Press
Hardcover (224 pages)

On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight
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Ask anybody what superpower they wished to possess and odds are the answer just might be "the ability to fly." What is it about soaring through the air held up by the power of one's own body that has captivated humans for so long? David Alexander examines the evolution of flight in the only four animals to have evolved this ability: insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats. With an accessible writing style grounded in rigorous research, Alexander breaks new ground in a field that has previously been confined to specialists. While birds have received the majority of attention from flight researchers, Alexander pays equal attention to all four groups of flyers-something that no other book on the subject has done before now. In a streamlined and captivating way, David Alexander demonstrates the links between the tiny 2-mm thrip and the enormous albatross with the 12 feet wingspan used to cross oceans.

The book delves into the fossil record of flyers enough to satisfy the budding paleontologist, while also pleasing ornithologists and entomologists alike with its treatment of animal behavior, flapping mechanisms, and wing-origin theory. Alexander uses relatable examples to draw in readers even without a natural interest in birds, bees, and bats. He takes something that is so off-limits and unfamiliar to humans-the act of flying-and puts it in the context of experiences that many readers can relate to. Alexander guides readers through the anomalies of the flying world: hovering hummingbirds, unexpected gliders (squirrels, for instance), and the flyers that went extinct (pterosaurs). Alexander also delves into wing-origin theory and explores whether birds entered the skies from the trees down (as gliders) or from the ground up (as runners) and uses the latest fossil evidence to present readers with an answer.
Live Pterosaurs in America: Not extinct, flying creatures of cryptozoology that some call pterodactyls or flying dinosaurs or prehistoric birds
By Jonathan David Whitcomb

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (154 pages)

Live Pterosaurs in America: Not extinct, flying creatures of cryptozoology that some call pterodactyls or flying dinosaurs or prehistoric birds
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Encounter eyewitness accounts of living pterosaurs in the United States. Live "pterodactyls?" In the United States? Many scientists have long assumed all pterosaurs died millions of years ago. Now take a whirlwind tour of many years of investigations in cryptozoology, and prepare for a shock: At least two species of pterosaurs have survived, uncommon, not so much rare as widely, thinly distributed.

Nocturnal pterosaurs have always lived among us, but hidden by something. Enter now the realm of a new branch of cryptozoology, a branch overshadowed by the dogma of a "universal extinction." How did scientists miss living pterosaurs? Get the answers here, hidden secrets about how these amazing flying creatures of the night have gone mostly unreported: Until recently, almost nobody would listen to eyewitnesses; but for the past seven years many of them have been interviewed by the author of this book.

Many modern pterosaurs are much larger than any bat, many with long tails, many with head crests. What about news headlines? How did these creatures avoid media attention? Get the answers from years of work by American cryptozoologists.

The old "fruit bat" explanation for reports of pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea--that bat idea has now been shot down; the tail length of the larger Rhamphorhynchoid-like flying creatures has been estimated at a minimum of ten feet and a maximum of over twenty feet. More shocking, these giant long-tailed flying creatures are not confined to the southwest Pacific: They are seen in the contiguous United States of America. Most pterosaurs in North America, however, are smaller, with many wingspan estimates at less than fifteen feet; nevertheless, how shocking!

What amazing encounters! In California, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and many other states, eyewitnesses have seen strange featherless creatures flying overhead. These are not bats; most have long tails and are bigger than any bat. Dive into eyewitness testimonies; compare sightings through the author's detailed analysis. Third edition, nonfiction.
Pterosaur in the Hardware Store
By Julia Inserro

Julia Inserro
Paperback (32 pages)

Pterosaur in the Hardware Store
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Could there really be dinosaurs in the hardware store? Leah and Milo didn’t think so, but then they spotted their first Stegosaurus and the adventure began! Join them in their imaginative dinosaur hunt and see how many you can spot!

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination encircles the world."
-Albert Einstein
Great fun for boys and girls.
Perfect for ages 4-8.
Searching for Ropens and Finding God: The quest for discovering modern pterosaurs ("flying dinosaurs")
By Jonathan David Whitcomb

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (360 pages)

Searching for Ropens and Finding God: The quest for discovering modern pterosaurs ("flying dinosaurs")
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Fly above common true-life adventures, and dive into what may become the most unsettling scientific discovery since Copernicus and Galileo: living pterosaurs of the modern world----what a discovery!

It soars above disputes about religion, revealing why an official discovery of an extraordinary animal has been delayed for so long. Above all, this explores human experience: eyewitnesses and those who interviewed them. People have become connected by common encounters; persons of various faiths, with various levels of education, from various countries and cultures, have seen a living pterosaur, commonly called "pterodactyl."

Notwithstanding the delay in the official scientific discovery, eyewitnesses from around the world continue to encounter these flying creatures: featherless, long-tailed, often larger than any known bird.

A few Americans explored a few islands in the southwest Pacific, in brief expeditions scattered between 1993 and 2007, looking for a modern pterosaur. "Creationist" each man was labeled, yet many of those following them, in recent years, carried no religious purpose.

The creatures have many names: seklo-bali, duwas, wawanar, indava, kor, kundua. In Papua New Guinea, natives in isolated communities speak in village languages numbering in the hundreds, yet many natives carry a common fear in the dark: a huge glowing creature flying in the night. Natives on Umboi Island call it "ropen."

Three American Christians----one middle-aged LDS-Mormon high priest and two younger Protestant Young Earth Creationists----explored parts of Umboi Island in two separate expeditions in 2004, interviewing native eyewitnesses of the elusive ropen. They returned home even more convinced that long-tailed pterosaurs live, even thrive, in Papua New Guinea.

This resulted in the publication of several books, two scientific papers in a peer-reviewed journal, and over a thousand blog posts, written mostly by those who trudged the jungle trails of Umboi themselves and spoke with the eyewitnesses face to face.

Those two expeditions in 2004 also cleared the path for other searches in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere, including expeditions led by those with no religious purpose in searching for ropens, namely the Destination Truth and Monsterquest television shows.

This book illustrates how we succeed better by working with those of different faiths in pursuing a common goal, in this case finding a modern living pterosaur and supporting each other in our common beliefs and values.

Why has the official scientific discovery been so long delayed? The causes are multiple and interrelated, but one obstacle has been resolved. Speculation that religious bias of investigators has played a big part in sighting reports of apparent pterosaurs----that conjecture has been shot down.

Consider the words of Sandra Paradise, an eyewitness in Georgia: "The world is now totally different. I feel blessed that God has allowed me to see this creature that should not be here, and yet is, this strange dragon-like thing that lives somewhere in the woods . . ."

Steven Cottingham, a government official in New Guinea many years ago, told the author, "My sighting occurred at night near Lab Lab on the southern tip of Umboi. The light lasted for four to five seconds, and until reading your reports now, have never been able to explain the sighting."

The American flight instructor Duane Hodgkinson told the author about his encounter with a long-tailed flying creature in New Guinea: "It was a big one! I have a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane [wingspan twenty nine feet] and it appeared to be about that size."

Patty Carson, of Southern California, said, "It did have a tail and it had a diamond shaped tip . . . The skin was a leathery, brownish reddish color. It had little teeth, a LOT of them."
Pterosaur Trouble (Tales of Prehistoric Life)
By Daniel Loxton

Kids Can Press
Released: 2013-04-01
Hardcover (32 pages)

Pterosaur Trouble (Tales of Prehistoric Life)
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In the popular Tales of Prehistoric Life series, incredibly lifelike, computer-generated images illustrate action-packed stories about dinosaurs and their contemporaries. As this dramatic tale begins, Quetzalcoatlus, a huge pterosaur, is seen flying over a lush landscape looking for a good breakfast. He lands near a river with the hope of finding some tasty fish. However, he is soon surrounded by a pack of Saurornitholestes, who begin furiously biting and pecking at the pterosaur. Though the two-legged dinosaurs are much smaller than Quetzalcoatlus, he has a difficult time fending off their ferocious attacks. After a valiant effort, he decides there are just too many Saurornitholestes to fight at once. ?Quetzalcoatlus was a towering giant, but sometimes numbers and fierceness count more than size.? So he gathers his strength and soars into the air to escape to safety.

Created by Daniel Loxton, the three books in this series are just the thing for young dinosaur lovers, both early readers and pre-readers, who will find their stunning, attention-grabbing artwork highly engrossing. The detailed illustrations and the facts of each story are based on thorough research on each of these creatures. This tale is based on the real-life discovery of a Quetzalcoatlus leg bone fossil that had bite marks and a tooth fragment from a Saurornitholestes embedded in it. There is a page providing background information about Quetzalcoatlus and Saurornitholestes at the end of the story, making this book a great resource for older children's fact-finding purposes as well.
The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time
By David M. Unwin

Pi Press
Released: 2005-08-25
Hardcover (352 pages)

The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time
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Here is the first complete portrait of the legendary flying dragons of deep time–the pterosaurs–designed for non-specialists, yet founded on the real science of these bizarre creatures.  Presented lucidly and accessibly by one of the world’s leading experts, David Unwin’s book is built on a mountain of new fossil discoveries and the latest research. 

 

About 220 millions years ago, a group of reptiles took to the Earth’s vast and open skies. No longer tethered to the ground, the earliest pterosaurs evolved into a multitude of diverse forms, spread around the globe, and ruled the skies until they went extinct along with the dinosaurs about 65 millions years ago, rarely leaving fossils as a record of their existence. What they did leave was a mystery for paleontologists to solve; an enigma so difficult to crack that it took centuries of false starts and missteps before the path to a true understanding of pterosaurs was uncovered. 

 

Now, an understanding of the fundamental nature of these strange creatures is finally possible.  In the last 15 years, stunning new fossil finds and significant advances in technology have led to a breakthrough in our knowledge of pterosaurs.  New fossils of the earliest species were discovered in Italy, a remarkably well-preserved and complete wing was found in Central Asia, and, most extraordinarily, a pterosaur embryo inside an egg was unearthed in China.  CAT scanning has let researchers glimpse inside pterosaur skulls and construct three-dimensional images of their bodies from crushed bones, and modern techniques for analyzing relationships between species have revealed surprising insights into the evolution of the group.

 

Drawing on these and other advances, David Unwin, caretaker of Archaeopteryx and curator at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, paints pterosaurs and their world more vividly than has previously been possible.  He eloquently reconstructs their biology and behavior.  Pterosaurs weren’t scaly like dinosaurs, but hairy; most were brightly colored and adorned with remarkable head crests; they were excellent fliers with physiologically sophisticated wings; they walked on all fours; and varied in size from eight inches to forty feet in wingspan.  He shows how they lived their lives, raised their young, and interacted with the different environments of Mesozoic Earth.  Then, building on his thorough examination of their anatomy and lifestyle, and using the powerful technique of cladistic analysis, Unwin unravels the evolutionary history of pterosaurs and establishes their place in the one great tree of life.

 

Packed with 95 color and 30 black and white illustrations–including 10 full-page original color paintings that are scientific recreations of different pterosaur species–The Pterosaurs From Deep Time takes readers on an wondrous expedition back through the lost world of the Earth’s deep past.

 

 

100 Pterosaurs to Fold and Fly [Paperback] [Feb 01, 2018] NILL
By NILL

Usborne Publishing Ltd
Paperback

100 Pterosaurs to Fold and Fly [Paperback] [Feb 01, 2018] NILL
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BRAND NEW, Exactly same ISBN as listed, Please double check ISBN carefully before ordering.
Pterosaurs: Flying Contemporaries of the Dinosaurs
By Andre J. Veldmeijer & Ilja Nieuwland

Sidestone Press
Released: 2013-01-14
Paperback (134 pages)

Pterosaurs: Flying Contemporaries of the Dinosaurs
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Pterosaurs or flying reptiles were the first vertebrates to evolve flight. These distant relatives of modern reptiles and dinosaurs lived from the Late Triassic (over 200 million years ago) to the end of the Cretaceous (about 65 million years ago) a span of some 135 million years. When they became extinct, no relatives survived them and as a result these prehistoric animals cannot readily be compared with our modern-day fauna. So what do we know of these highly succsessful animals? The present summary answers this and many more questions based on the most recent results of modern scientific research.
After a short introduction to palaeontology as a science and its history related to pterosaurs, it explains what pterosaurs were, when and where they lived, and what they looked like. Topics such as disease, injury and reproduction are also discussed. Separated from this text are 'Mark explains' boxes. Each of these explanations puts one specific species in the spotlight and focuses on its lifestyle. They show how diverse pterosaurs were, from small insectivorous animals with a wingspan of nearly 40 centimetres to the biggest flying animals ever to take to the air, with wingspans of over 10 metres and with a way of life comparable to modern-day storks. The text is illustrated with many full colour photographs and beautiful palaeo-art prepared by experts in the field.
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs (A Salamander Book)
By Peter Wellnhofer

Crescent
Released: 1991-06-29
Hardcover (192 pages)

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs (A Salamander Book)
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Recounts the story of the discovery and growth of scientific knowledge of prehistoric flying reptiles, describes the various species, and discusses their way of life, the reasons for their extinction, and how they compare to other flying vertebrates


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