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Quetzalcoatlus northropi

OLogy Series
extinct animal
card
360

Quetzalcoatlus northropi

OLogy Series
extinct animal

Imagine a flying reptile the size of a two-seater plane! That's Quetzalcoatlus, one of the largest flying animals ever. In 1971, a geology student discovered it in Texas. But the only remains found were parts of one wing. Paleontologists pieced together the wing one chunk at a time, starting with
a massive arm bone. They think Quetzalcoatlus had extremely long legs, neck, and jaws. On the ground, it may have stood about 16 feet (5 m) tall!

The wandering albatross is the largest flying animal alive today. Its wings are about 10 feet (3 m) across. The wings of Quetzalcoatlus are:

about the same wingspan as the albatross

twice the wingspan of the albatross

three times the wingspan of the albatross

Are you right?

Correct!

With its long, thin wings, Quetzalcoatlus could soar over vast distances like today's albatross. But when Quetzalcoatlus was standing on the ground, its tall, thin body may have looked more like a giraffe's!

Pterosaurs lived on every continent, but the reason their fossils are very rare is because of:

their thin, lightweight bones

their environment

both

Are you right?

Correct!

Like the bones of other flying animals, pterosaur bones were thin and fragile. Some pterosaurs lived around lagoons or lakes, places where fossils form. But many more lived in other kinds of environments and were never preserved.

Mark Norell, paleontologist

I think pterosaurs are really interesting because there's nothing like them alive today. Pterosaurs were the largest animals that ever flew. They were also the first vertebrates to acquire powered flight.

Quetzalcoatlus was the heaviest of all the pterosaurs.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

In 2013, a neck bone fossil of a new species was discovered in Romania. Its wingspan was as large as Quetzalcoatlus, but this pterosaur was much more bulky and massive.

All pterosaurs that lived at the time of Quetzalcoatlus were very large.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Pterosaurs of different sizes evolved during the Mesozoic Era. Some were as small as a sparrow, with 10-inch (25-cm) wingspans.

Most bad breath is caused by bacteria living on your tongue.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

You could have 100 to 200 species living in your mouth right now. Most won't harm you, and some protect you. Brushing your teeth and tongue kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

Pronunciation: ket-zel-KWAT-a-lus
NORTH-rup-eye
Lived: around 67 million years ago
Fossil Found: Big Bend National Park, in southwestern Texas
Wingspan: around 33 feet (10 meters)
Diet: possibly small vertebrates or carrion
Cool Fact: It was named after Quetzalcoatl, a Mexican god of the air, and Jack Northrop, who developed a stealth aircraft called the flying wing.

Image credits: © AMNH 2014; Mark Norell: AMNH.