pterosaurs

The first vertebrates to fly took to the skies about 215 million years ago. These creatures were neither birds nor bats. They belonged to a group of flying reptiles called pterosaurs. Pterosaurs ranged from the size of a sparrow to a small airplane, and are still the largest animals that ever flew. Along with dinosaurs and many other species, pterosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago.

Pterosaurs ("winged lizard")
Locality found: All around the world
Age: Triassic to Cretaceous Period, 220-65 mya
Size: 5 inches to 30 feet long
Diet: insects, fish, small reptiles
Characteristics: reptile with wings supported by elongated fourth finger; hollow bones, strong flying muscles, large brains; some had large heads with crests and beaks; some had teeth
Significance: First vertebrate to fly

Image credits: main image, Sean Murtha.