Don’t call it a pterodactyl. It’s a Pteranodon—an ancient flying reptile and part of the pterosaur family.
- Pteranodon dinosaurs lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, 86 to 84.5 million years ago in what is now the central United States. Over 1,000 fossils have been found in Alabama, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
- This animal had as much as a 20 foot wingspan.
- Two different types have been found, one with a long, sharp crest on its head and long wings; the other with smaller wings, a short, rounded crest, and wide hips.
- At first, scientists wondered if they were looking at two different species. Now they believe Pteranodon was sexually dimorphic, which means that males and females of the species look different.
- The males probably had the longer wings and longer crest, while the females probably had the wider hips for carrying and laying eggs.
- Pteranodon means “Toothless Wing.” These animals were carnivores. They had long sharp beaks (their skulls with beaks were longer than the entire rest of their bodies), and were probably experts at diving from the sky to spear fish and other aquatic prey from the sea.
- Their wings were not only long, but very strong. Most of the area was covered in water at the time. They probably spent much of their time soaring over the water, and might have even been able to sleep while in flight.
- This strategy meant that they had few predators except when they landed in the ocean. The giant aquatic beast, the mosasaur was a likely threat.
Questions and Answers
Question: Why do the males of the species always seem to get the bigger, brighter displays?
Answer: In most species in which males and females don’t look alike, the males do tend to have bigger, brighter displays, such as brightly colored feathers or skin. One reason for this is probably that males need these displays to attract the attention of females, who are already biologically more taxed with having and delivering babies. In other words, females might be less interested than males in finding mates.
Watch a video from Dinosaur Train.