Pterosaur Fossils: Winged Flying Reptiles | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Pterosaur Fossils: Winged Flying Reptiles



      Pterosaurs (which means “Winged Lizards”) are prehistory’s most enigmatic and majestic flying creatures of all time. These cousins of the dinosaurs (not actually dinosaurs themselves, though both share a common ancestry) survived for 150 million years, from the Triassic Period (225 million years ago) until their extinction in the Cretaceous Period (66 million years ago). There are several species known to science thus far, all fulfilling many ecological niches. Shapes and sizes abound within this group, from the tiny Nemicolopterus (with a 10-inch wingspan), to the bony-headed Pteranodon, to the toothy Ornithocheirus, to the gigantic Quetzalcoatlus (with a 35-foot wingspan!). Pterosaurs are broken down into two basic groups, which are the long-tailed, more primitive rhamphorhynchoids (“ram-for-rink-coids”), and the short-tailed, more derived pterodactyloids (“ter-oh-dac-til-oids”). These kings of the air were the first vertebrates known to evolve powered flight, and the mechanism by which this was achieved was on a pair of leathery wings that extended from their bodies to the tip of a tremendously elongated fourth finger. As fate would have it, the pterosaur population would decrease in time as the flying dinosaurs known as birds began to increase with species and population. In the end however, the final blow would be dealt by the great extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous Period, which took with it countless other forms of life.

Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Pterosaur selection: