Dinosaurs are still regarded as one of the most amazing creatures that has ever lived on Earth, even though they are now extinct.
Dinosaurs were destined to dominate the earth and even deep waters during ancient times, with their pointed teeth and various sizes (from the tiniest to the biggest bodies).
You ask about the skies too, don’t you? Did flying dinosaurs exist? Did they actually exist, or were they just a myth?
I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but there were no flying dinosaurs.
Despite the frequent depiction in the media and other electronic sources, there has been no scientific evidence of pre-avian dinosaurs that were capable of flying, technically speaking. Instead, terrestrial and marine dinosaurs were already cohabiting with non-avian reptiles that could fly at the time.
What are Pterosaurs?
Flying reptiles, also known as pterosaurs (literally “wing lizards,”) gained powered flight and ruled the skies of the Earth long before birds and flying mammals like bats did. In 1784, the first pterosaur fossils were discovered in Bavaria, Germany, by renowned Italian naturalist Cosimo Alessandro Collini. Many current paleontologists refer to these flying creatures as Pterodactyls, which were the names given to them by earlier scientists.
- These creatures evolved throughout the later half of the Triassic era and the end of the Cretaceous era, some 150 million years ago.
- Pterosaurs, on the other hand, had skin and muscle tissues stretched from their fingers to their ankles, unlike birds with feathers.
These flying reptiles were once thought to be unable to fly and instead relied on gliding. All pterosaurs, according to current investigations of pterosaur fossils, were capable of active flight. These creatures featured a large brain, highly evolved optic lobes, and numerous tuberosities in their bones, which allowed them to fly.
Relationship Between Pterosaurs & Dinosaurs
It’s vital to understand that pterosaurs were cousins rather than dinosaurs. Pterosaurs (members of the Order Pterosauria) and dinosaurs (members of the Order Dinosauria) exhibited convergent evolution, or a form of evolution in which organisms not closely related independently evolved comparable characteristics, based on the phylogenetic tree shown below.
Examples Of Pterosaurs
The Order Pterosauria members may grow to be as big as a raven or even bigger than an airplane. Pterosaurs were named after Greek philosophers and poets. The following are some pterosaur specimens:
Like any other pterosaurs, the Plesiosaurus is often mistaken as a dinosaur when in fact it was actually a marine reptile that thrived during the Jurassic period.
- Plesiosaurus had eyes on the sides of its head to aid it attack its prey from below, smooth skin to minimize drag in the water, and needle-like teeth that were ideal as fish traps, according to physical appearances.
- Long necks, long tails, and four paddle-like flippers characterized these reptiles as well. As a result, some experts have dubbed it a flying dinosaur, because of its looks in the vast seas.
- Plesiosaurus fossils from 1987 revealed that the animal may give birth to a live kid, as evidenced by bones of an embryo discovered in the plesiosaurus abdomen.
Also known as the “toothless flying reptile“, the Pteranodon was a descendant of another pterosaur known as the Pterodactylus. Literally, the name pteranodon (from ptera and anodontia) means “wing without tooth“.
- The Pteranodon feeds on fish, shellfish, mollusks, insects, and even leftover remnants of other creatures despite having no teeth.
- Pteranodon can travel long distances by depending on air currents, which they use to fly. The huge yet incredibly light wings of this reptile are covered by a leathery membrane rather than feathers. Its wings, legs, and fingers were typically all extended.
- Pteranodons were thought to have lived in North America and Europe throughout the late Cretaceous period, with long crests discovered at the back of their heads.
Literally meaning “winged finger“, the Pterodactylus was a type of pterosaur that thrived during the late Jurassic Period. Its name is an apt description of what its flying apparatus (the wings were supported by one large finger).
- The Pterodactylus was able to flap its wings and fly with significant force as a result of its structure.
- The Pterodactylus had several teeth, whereas the Pteranodon had none, which is a major distinction between the two.
- The Pterodactylus, as well as the Pteranodon, are the forebears of this species. As a result, they have a similar appearance. The Pterodactylus had enormous wings covered in a leathery membrane that stretches across its entire body, rather than feathers.
- In parts of Europe and Africa, the remains of Pteranodons were discovered.
Discovered by Richard Owen in England in 1859, the Dimorphodon (meaning “two-form tooth“) was a flying reptile that lived during the early Jurassic period.
- Wide-jawed jaws, short necks, and a weird diamond-shaped flap of skin at the end of its long, thin tail are all characteristics of the Dimorphodon.
- The skull of this reptile, which was much larger than the rest of its body, was another notable feature. This was most likely utilized for courting, according to scientists.
- Dimorphodons had limbs that stretched out to the side, which gave it a clumsy gait unlike other members of the Order Pterosauria. Dimorphodons typically hang from tree limbs and cliffs while holding their body weight with their claw, which reveals that they are not in flight.
The Rhamphorhynchus, which dwell at the end of the Jurassic era, is the next animal on this list.
- The diamond-like flap skin at the end of this flying reptile’s tail is what makes it most noticeable. The jaws of this carnivorous reptile were narrow, and the teeth were visible from the outside.
- Rhamphorhynchus’ enormous yet light wings were employed in flying. During flight, the flap in question was utilized to stay steady.
- The Rhamphorhynchus had small legs and were poor runners, despite their ability to fly.
The Germanodactylus is well recognized for its head crest, which literally means “German finger.” During mating season, this crest made of keratin, a protein, might change color and become more prominent.
- This reptile had a 3.5-foot wingspan and the ability to fly long distances, much like a raven.
- The name Germanodactylus comes from the fact that the first fossils of this species were found in Germany during the late Jurassic period.
The Haopterus, one of Asia’s few flying reptiles from the late Cretaceous era, is the next creature on this list. Several Haopterus fossils have been found in China’s Liaoning Province.
- This creature’s name combines the Latin word for wing, pteron, with the Chinese professor Hao Yi Chun’s name.
- The Haopterus had teeth that were especially well-suited for eating fish, which was surprising. As a result of this, piscivores were the most common type of animal.
- The Haopterus had a typical wingspan of around 4 to 5 feet. As a result, it could cover large distances and climb high. The Haopterus had slender hind feet, which scientists believed allowed the animal to walk quadrupedally on land.
The Quetzalcoatlus, which lived in North America during the late Cretaceous period, was not only one of the biggest flying creatures of all time, but also one of the largest.
- The Quetzalcoatlus could fly with such magnificent wings and travel considerable distances with ease. This animal weighed little more than a hundred kilograms, according to scientists, despite its huge size.
- It was also characterized by its long neck, which aided it in scavenging the corpses of other animals.
- Quetzalcoatlus, an Aztec feathered serpent deity, was the inspiration for this flying reptile’s name.
The Bird-Like Dinosaurs (Flying Dinosaurs)
Dinosaurs are not lizards but a distinct kind of extinct reptile, so the name dinosaur literally means “terrible lizard.”
Birds, on the other hand, are thought to have originated in the Mesozoic Period from dinosaurs (specifically theropod dinosaurs). Modern birds are often referred to as “feathered dinosaurs” in a broad sense. Birds could have evolved from dinosaurs, but scientists didn’t believe that pre-avian dinosaurs couldn’t fly, as previously stated.
The world’s oldest known bird is the Archeopteryx, which lived during the late Jurassic era in southern Germany. The name is derived from the Greek words “archaios” and “pteryx,” which signify “ancient” and “wing,” respectively.
- The link between birds and non-avian/non-flying dinosaurs is thought to be Archeopteryx. The Archeopteryx possessed bodily features such as sharp teeth, a bony tail, aerial flight, and tail feathers (sometimes referred to as “killing claws”) – all of which are shared by birds and dinosaurs.
- The Archeopteryx weighed about one kilogram and had the size of a raven.
- The German name Urvogel, which translates to “first bird,” is also used to refer to the Archeopteryx.
The Microraptor, like the Archeopteryx, connects dinosaurs and birds in a evolutionary sense. The Microraptor (like the Archeopteryx) was discovered in China’s woods and is a crucial piece of evidence for bird and dinosaur evolution.
- The Microraptor possessed features of both dinosaurs and birds, including flight feathers (similar to modern birds) and claws specialized for climbing trees.
- The term Microraptor literally translates to “small seizing.”
There is no more reason to maintain the ambiguity now that such strong evidence of dinosaurs’ unique evolutionary linkages to birds has been discovered. What are your thoughts on the issue?