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Pterosaur (cast), Quetzalcoatlus northropi
Common Name: Pterosaur, flying reptile
Scientific Name: Quetzalcoatlus northropi
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Pterosauria
Period: Late Cretaceous, 67 million years old
Museum ID Number: 59753
Image Number: ROM2008_10213_8

The pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus was one of the largest flying creatures ever to evolve. It had a wingspan of up to 12 metres (39 ft), which is larger than some small airplanes. The reconstruction you see here is based upon an enormous fossil wing discovered in 1971 in Big Bend National Park, Texas, and comparisons with other more complete Quetzacoatlus specimens from the same area. Although it looks huge, its hollow bones are almost paper-thin, and it may have weighed as little as 100 kilograms.

Quetzalcoatlus could likely take off under its own power, but it probably spent much of its time soaring. On the ground, Quetzalcoatlus walked awkwardly on all four legs. The lifestyle of giant pterosaurs like Quetzalcoatlus is uncertain. It may have fed on fish, either like a heron or skimming them up while flying close to water, or it may have lived like a Marabou Stork or a vulture, soaring on air currents and feeding on the carcasses of dead dinosaurs.

Quetzalcoatlus was also one of the last of the pterosaurs. It soared above the heads of dinosaurs like Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus at the very end of the Cretaceous Period. Bones of related animals are also known from the slightly older rocks of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. Like all other pterosaurs, Quetzalcoatlus did not survive the extinction event that marked the end of the Mesozoic Era.

Location: Big Bend National Park, Brewster County, Texas

Gallery: Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court

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