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Fun Pterodactyl Facts: Flying Reptiles of Prehistoric Wonder

pterodactyl facts - 3D art of brown reptiles with wings

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a pterodactyl!

This flying reptile sure catches the imagination no matter where we see them. Wish these awesome creatures still existed so we can admire them up close. But for now, lifelike animatronic Pterodactyls and puppets are more than enough.

But there’s more to this fascinating animal than meets the eye. Wondering what they are?

This brief guide has interesting Pterodactyl facts you wouldn’t want to miss. Get to know them better from head to toe as you check out this article.

Hop on!

I. Interesting Facts About The Flying Reptile’s Fossil Discovery, Life, & Classification

pterodactyl facts - 3D art of flying Pterodactyls

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Here are a few special details about the Pterodactyl that’ll make you see it in a new light.

The Pterodactyl's Fossil Discovery

The Pterodactyl was the first pterosaur that was ever named and identified. It was first discovered in Bavaria, Germany in the 18th century.

The Pterodactyl’s curious-looking fossil was found in Bavaria’s Solnhofen limestone which was subsequently described by Cosimo Alessandro Collini. Surprisingly, the Italian scientist was a bit mind-boggled when describing the Pterodactyl.

He thought it was an aquatic animal rather than the flying reptile that it’s known today. Why?

Well, from the simple thought that unique-looking animals most likely came from the ocean. For a second, people would agree as underwater critters are one of the most quirky-looking creatures.

some Pterodactyls are flying in the blue sky

Photo by Worldatlas

The Pterodactyl's Life & Times In The Jurassic Period

The Pterodactyl first took to flight in prehistoric skies during the Mesozoic Era. It lived around 150 million years ago in the Late Jurassic period’s Tithonian stage where it thrived in a diurnal lifestyle.

As ancient as it is, its ancestors are even older. The Pterodactyl’s clade, Pterosauria, existed as early as the Triassic period.

The Pterodactyl's Classification

Did you know the Pterodactyl’s proper name is “Pterodactylus”? It’s from the Greek word “pterodaktylos” which means “winged finger” just as we mentioned earlier. Only one species is identified from this animal, the Pterodactylus antiquus.

This small species’ winged finger gave scientists a clue as to what kind of animal it was. And it was one of the several kinds of Pterosaurs.

The Pterosaurs were “wing lizards”, they were reptiles that could fly. They weren’t dinosaurs contrary to what many might believe.

Additionally, that’s how these animals were the first known creatures to have the ability of powered flight. Awesome, right? Flying abilities really ran in the Pterodactylus’ family.

II. Home Sweet Home: Facts About The Winged Reptiles' Habitat

3D art of two Pterodactyls flying with the ocean at the back

Photo by Dariush M on Shutterstock

Ever wondered where the Pterodactyl lived 150 million years ago? The winged reptile may have lived in a swamp-like environment near the Jurassic seas in what is now present-day Germany.

This comes from how its fossils were found embedded in limestone, which was hardened ancient mud that’s characteristic of a prehistoric wetland. Interesting, isn’t it?

To give a more complete picture, here are a few dinosaurs and animals that coexisted with the Pterodactyl:
● Dinosaurs: Archaeopteryx, Compsognathus
● Other Pterosaurs: Rhamphorhynchus, Ardeadactylus
● Crocodlylomorphs
● Turtles
● Ichthyosaurs

III. Prehistoric Cravings: Facts About The Flying Reptiles' Diet & Teeth

3D art of a flying Pterodactyl over water and rocks

Photo by Elenarts on Shutterstock

Can you guess what the Pterodactyl loved to eat? If seafood and small animals were your guesses, you got it right! The Pterodactyl mostly preyed on fish with the occasional little critter at other times.

Would A Pterodactyl Eat A Human?

A Pterodactyl probably wouldn’t eat a human considering its small size. But other Pterosaurs that were also generalist meat-eaters like the massive Arambourgiania and Hatzegopteryx may be able to swallow a small human.

How Many Teeth Did A Pterodactyl Have?

The Pterodactyl had around 90 teeth lined up in its long straight jaw. Its teeth were cone-like in shape and were smaller towards the back of the jaw.

IV. Ancient Jetsetter: Facts About The Pterodactyl's Wings & Ability To Fly

a brown Pterodactyl is flying in the forest

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How did Pterodactyls take to the sky? Powered flight became possible for them because of the tough muscle and skin membrane that stretched from its fourth finger to its hind limbs. Adult Pterodactyls had a wingspan of about 3 1/2 feet.

This is how these animals got their wings and ability to fly in the Late Jurassic. And that’s what inspired their name that means, “winged finger”. Consequently, these interesting details about its wings are what inspired our realistic Pterodactyl puppet.

V. Other Interesting Pterodactyl Facts From Head To Toe

graphic art of a brown flying Pterodactylus with a blue sky in the background

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Now let’s take a closer look at other fascinating parts of Pterodactyls with some being identified autapomorphies as scientists. These means, features that are unique to these pterosaurs.

So here are the interesting Pterodactyl facts about the head, crest, limbs, and the presence or absence of feathers.

The Features of Pterodactylus's Heads

Pterodactyls had long slender skulls. What makes the features of their heads different is how straight they were.

In addition, fossils of Pterodactylus skulls are split by scientists into two classes by their sizes. This helps scientists determine a Pterodactyl’s maturity. Check them out below:
● Skulls that are 0.59 inches to 1.77 inches: first-year class.
● Skulls that are 2.20 inches to 3.7 inches: second-year class.

Characteristics of Pterodactyls' Crests

Parasaurolophuses weren’t the only animals rocking crests back in the day. Pterodactyls did too!

What makes these pterosaurs’ crests different from others are the following:
● Crests were mostly used for display. These grew larger as the Pterodactyls matured.
● Underneath its grand design is soft tissue that started from their antorbital fenestras.
● Crests can be short, low, and bony.
● Estimated length: 1.87 inches. Estimated height: 0.035 inches.

a colorful Pterodactyl is flying on the sea

Photo by ThoughtCo

How Pterodactyls Used Their Limbs

Can you imagine how Pterodactyls walked? It’s a little funny considering how long their legs are compared to the length of their bodies.

Pterodactyls were able to use their four limbs for walking. Scientists discovered its feasibility from the track marks these pterosaurs left. A good example is the ones found in Utah’s Summerville Formation.

According to National Geographic, Pterodactyls walked by waddling with their legs. Additionally, they used their limbs to help launch themselves into flight.

Did Pterodactyls Have Feathers?

The short answer is no because solid evidence proving its presence on Pterodactyls is yet to be discovered. There have been many studies trying to its feasibility but none have been successful to date.

Wondering why this little detail is important to scientists?

Wondering why this little detail is important to scientists? Science Daily shares the following explanations:
● Pterosaurs have a common ancestor with the dinosaurs. So proving feathers’ existence will imply new things which are the total opposite of what the scientific community presently accepts. And it’s the thought that every dinosaur (excluding sauropods) was feathered should its existence be proven on pterosaurs.                           
● Its presence or absence on pterosaurs is important because this will determine how feathers first showed up in these animals’ physical makeup.

 

The Winged Reptiles: Iconic Creatures Of The Jurassic Period

graphic art of a brown flying Pterodactylus with seas and trees in the background

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What did you like most about the Pterodactyl facts you just read? You can use what you learned today as the starting point of getting to know prehistoric creatures better.

If you’re an educator or a parent teaching kids about natural sciences, you can use lively visual aids. Realistic dinosaur costumes or puppets will help your students or kids learn better.

We hope you found this brief guide useful!

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