While some people consider Pterodactyls to be flying dinosaurs, that is really not the case. In actuality, these are flying reptiles. Sure, they came on to the scene at about the same time as dinosaurs, lived among them and even became extinct around the same time, but they are not flying dinosaurs. However, they are some of the most fascinating creatures to ever fly. Which is why we’re going to take a closer look at them today.
Pterodactyls belong to a taxonomic family of reptiles called Pterosaurs. In this family, there are over 130 different genera that lived all over the globe. They not only lived in North and South America, but they also lived all across Europe and Asia. These creatures first appeared about 230 million years ago during the late Triassic Period. They became extinct about the same time as the dinosaurs—about 65 million years ago.
It’s a common misconception among people that the biological descendants of the Pterosaurs were modern birds. However, that would be inaccurate. In reality, modern birds actual evolved from small, land based feathered dinosaurs. Pterosaurs would turn out to be a dead end for flight. They became extinct when the dinosaurs became extinct—about 65 million years ago.
However, that doesn’t mean the history of these dinosaurs isn’t fascinating. The first specimen was discovered in 1784 by an Italian scientist known as Cosimo Collini. When he discovered it, he didn’t know what to make of it at first. In fact, he never thought of it as a dinosaur who could fly—or any kind of avian creature. He thought the over-sized wings were used to paddle it in the water, like giant oars. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that scientist began to postulate that these were flying creatures. This is when Georges Cuvier—a French naturalist—theorized Pterosaurs were capable of flying.
What is even more fascinating however, is how these dinosaurs actually flew. Their wings consisted of four fingers with skin stretched from these fingers to their high limbs. It was then thought that they could then use them like a glider, although new research is proving this to be wrong.
Pterosaurs might not be done surprising us either. It is now believed that these dinosaurs may have been warm blooded. It was previously believed that they were cold-blooded and couldn’t generate their own body heat. That was before scientists found specimens like Jeholopterus ninchengensis—a Pterosaur which is believed to have had fur coats or mammal-like hair. This would not only suggest that they were warm-blooded but it also suggests that they could probably fly under their own power as well. They might be reptiles and not true flying dinosaurs—but that doesn’t mean they can’t spark our imagination and peak our interest. These animals were some of the most fascinating ones of the period from the late Triassic to the Cretaceous Period.