Mister Pterodactyl
Monday, March 29, 2004
I just got my copy of this week's Economist. And here I thought last week's cover was grim.

I'm experiencing slowdown in the essay production. In the meantime I had meant to follow up on this post (warning: link doesn't work the way you'd think, scroll down to March 04 at the bottom). So:

Pterosaurs: Kingdom Animalia; Phylum Chordata; Subphylum Vertebrata; Superclass Tetrapoda (four-legged animals); Class Reptilia or Diapsida – the latter includes all the reptiles (except turtles) and birds; Subclass Archosaur - this group includes dinosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs, birds, etc; Order Pterosauria - flying reptiles.
There are two suborders of pterosauria. Rhamphorhynchoids ("prow beaks") - early pterosaurs that appeared during the Triassic period and went extinct at the end of the Jurassic, that had long tails, short necks, and long, narrow wings. These were the first flying vertebrates. Examples include dimorphodon, Rhamphorhynchus, and Sordes. Pterodactyl, or pterodactyloid (“wing finger”) first appeared in late Jurassic and died out in the K-T extinction 65 million years ago. A few types of pterodactyl:

pterodactylus: 20-30 inch wingspan, lived on lakeshores during the late Jurassic.
dungaripterus: 10 foot wingspan, lived during the early Cretaceous, had a bony crest along it’s snout and long, narrow curved jaws.
pteranodon: 6 ft long, 25 ft wingspan, late Cretaceous.
quetzalcoatlus: 40 ft wingspan, body weight 110 lbs, late Cretaceous.

Pterodactyls were lightly built with hollow bones, long necks & skulls, small bodies, large brains, and good eyesight; some had short tails, some had bony head crests (which may have been a rudder or a sex characteristic), some had fur. Their wings stretched from the elongated fourth finger to the top of the legs. Though all pterodactyls could fly under their own power, the largest ones probably were aided in flight by updrafts and winds. They were carnivorous. Some had bristle-like teeth, some had no teeth; they ate fish, mollusks, crabs, plankton, insects, and sometimes dead land animals.

The first discovery of a pterodactyl fossil was in Bavaria by Cosmos Alessandro Collini, 1784.

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