Ancient Reptiles of the Air
Not Dinosaurs - But Just As Ancient

A small fluffy bird is about the last animal we would associate with the vast, scaly,
terrifying dinosaurs. Yet birds appeared on Earth about the same time as the
dinosaurs, and are quite closely related to them.

The reptiles of the air were mainly gliders, not flyers. The leathery, bat like wings were
weakly muscled and therefore lacked the powerful flying muscles that birds of today

The very large ones must have had problems in flapping such huge wings, and
probably flew by using currents of warm air that rise from the surface of the earth, this
would allow them to soar.

Archeopteryx  (PDF) as far as we know was one of the first birds to evolve. It had some
body parts similar to the dinosaurs and others that were distinctly birdlike. It had
feathers and could fly but was still very reptilian in many ways. Most obviously, its beak
was filled with sharp reptilian teeth and its wings bore 4 long claws.

Pterandon (PDF) had a wing-span of more than 5m, and half the length of its head
consisted of a long bony crest, which may have been used as a rudder to guide and
balance the animal whilst in flight.

Pterodactylus (PDF) was a small, sometimes even sparrow-sized, wing fingered
pterosaur. Like other of its group it had no tail, but had a long flexible neck.  On land
with their wings folded, some
pterosaurs may have walked on their sharp toed feet
whilst other may have used both their front and rear limbs

Quetzalcoatlus (PDF) was the largest known pterosaur known, and had a wingspan of
about 12m. The entire animal may have weighted 86kg, as much as a large human

Rhamphorhynchus (PDF) had a slender skull with forward pointing, spiky teeth. It's
skull and hind legs show some similarities with those of the earliest
dinosaurs. It had
a short neck and long tail. This tail, strengthened by extra bony rods was used as a
rudder when flying.

Sordes (PDF) appears to have had a thick, hairy coat, which would have kept the
pterosaur warm during its flights. This is quite unusual as reptiles are normally covered
in scales, mammals with hair, and birds with feathers!

Dinosaurs Totally Explained

Special thanks to:
U.S. Department of Education, Office of
Communications and Outreach,
Helping Your Child Learn Science,
Washington, D.C., 2005.
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