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Quetzalcoatlus

Possibly the largest flying creature ever

WWD - Prehistoric Planet

Quetzalcoatlus was a lightly built pterosaur with a long neck and a long toothless jaw. It was most accomplished in the air but could walk on all fours quite efficiently too.

They call it home

Quetzalcoatlus predominantly inhabited inland areas, living around lakes and rivers on semi-arid plains.

What big teeth you have

What big teeth you have

Quetzalcoatlus had the longest jaws of any non-marine animal, estimated at over 2.5m (8ft), although their tweezer-like beaks lacked teeth.

The most fantastic find

The most fantastic find

A closely related species of pterosaur, Hatzegopteryx, was named in 2002 by Eric Buffetaut, Dan Grigorescu and Zoltan Csiki. The bones were found in the Hatzeg basin of Transylvania. Hatzegopteryx and Quetzalcoatlus are thought to have been the largest pterosaurs ever.

Quetzalcoatlus features

Quetzalcoatlus features Height: 5m (16.4ft)
Length: 11m (36.08ft)
Weight: 249.93kg (551lbs)
Top speed: 170kph (105.6mph)
Vision: Quetzalcoatlus probably would have had excellent binocular vision like other creatures adapted to life in the air.
Skin: Quetzalcoatlus might have had hair-like structures, or pycnofibres, over their bodies, which were probably for insulation rather than display.
Brain: Pterosaurs in general had sizeable brains, making them reasonably intelligent. A life in the air is easier with a large brain, which gives an animal a heightened sense of balance, sight and muscle control.
Prey: Quetzalcoatlus was most likely a terrestrial stalker, an animal that hunted small prey like juvenile dinosaurs and lizards. Some of them may have been omnivorous, but the larger species were probably fairly strict carnivores. They would have filled the same niche as the storks and ground hornbills of today.
Bite: Quetzalcoatlus had long, toothless, tweezer-like beaks which originally hinted at a diet of fish, skim-feeding on lakes and pools. However, today, we think that they were actually terrestrial stalkers, hunting on the ground!
Nest: The soft, leathery, porous eggs of Quetzalcoatlus could absorb nutrients from the ground, like those of a turtle.

Quetzalcoatlus facts and theories

Quetzalcoatlus facts and theories

  1. Some scientists have suggested that Quetzalcoatlus was so large that it was too heavy to fly. It might have been the pterosaur equivalent of an ostrich: a huge animal that evolved from flying ancestors but lost the ability to take to the air. However, this is a controversial argument.
  2. Quetzalcoatlus are often wrongly described as being a dinosaur – they're actually part of the Pterosauria or flying reptiles. These animals reached their largest sizes by the end of the Mesozoic era, just before the K-Pg (KT) mass extinction event.
  3. The wing bones of hatchlings were already well formed and ready for independent flight.
  4. Quetzalcoatlus probably had some of the longest skulls of any land animals ever, and certainly the longest jaws. Conservative estimates suggest jaw and skull lengths of 2.5m (8.2ft) and 3m (9.8ft) – that's a big enough skull to eat a person, whole.
  5. Many bones in the pterosaur skeleton were hollowed out by air sacs – balloon-like extensions of the lungs that stretch around much of the skeleton. Among living animals, this feature is known only in birds.
  6. Like all pterosaurs, the wing membranes of Quetzalcoatlus were supported by an elongated fourth digit on either hand. The fibres in these animals' wings gave structural support and stiffness.
  7. All pterosaurs had an elongated sternum for the attachment of powerful flight muscles.