Quetzalcoatlus northropi was a giant flying pterosaur that existed during the Late Cretaceous period and became extinct about 70-65.5 million years ago. Their name was given after the feathered serpent God, named Quetzalcoatl.
Their huge body size made them the second largest flying pterosaur. This animal had exceptional terrestrial as well as aerial hunting skills. They used their large wings to fly in the air and their stiff neck to control their movements. Despite their huge body size, they were able to fly because of their hollow bones. Their massive wings in flight helped them to launch an attack and chase down their prey. The Quetzalcoatlus skull suggests that they had jaws without any teeth and thus, they swallowed down their prey.
Read on to unearth more fascinating facts about this creature!
Quetzalcoatlus was not a dinosaur but a flying reptile. It belonged to the pterosaur family. It existed with the dinosaurs and also preyed on them.
Quetzalcoatlus pronunciation is 'Kwet-zal-koh-at-lus'.
This prehistoric flying bird was actually a reptile belonging to the pterosaur family. It is one of the largest pterosaurs ever, with a wingspan of 39-39 ft (11-12 m).
Quetzalcoatlus existed in the Late Cretaceous period, along with other pterosaurs and dinosaurs of the various clades like sauropods and theropods.
These flying reptiles became extinct about 70-65.5 million years ago along with other predatory beasts like T. Rex during the Late Cretaceous period. This was the era when the large pterosaurs ruled the ground as well as the air and hunted down terrestrial animals. The Late Cretaceous period was followed by the Jurassic period when several advanced dinosaur species and other reptiles emerged. Natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis led to their extinction.
The fossils of this giant creature were excavated from Big Bend National Park in Texas. However, some skeleton remains of the Quetzalcoatlus dinosaur were retrieved from Senegal in Africa, Alberta, Russia, and, Jordan in the Middle East.
These species, whose fossils were discovered in Texas, roamed were flying reptiles. So they ruled the air as well as the ground with their giant body and long pointed beak. They may have also engaged themselves in feeding on small dinosaurs, fish, and other animals in the grass plains and tundra region.
The Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur may have lived in small groups and nested in groups as well. Some research on the Quetzalcoatlus fossil specimens also suggested that these creatures may have preyed on animals, birds, and smaller dinosaurs solitarily.
Although the exact life expectancy of Quetzalcoatlus northropi is unknown to us, we can assume that just like several other reptiles of the Cretaceous period, these flying reptiles lived for about 60-75 years.
These pterosaurs of North America reproduced by laying eggs. They laid eggs in groups and protected their nests. Their eggs were amniotic in nature with leathery shells. Several researchers conducted by paleontologists claim that the eggs were buried by the pterosaurs. The fossils of these giant flying reptiles that were discovered by the researchers, reveal to us that, unlike birds, the pterosaurs had a pair of functional ovaries. Due to several studies conducted on the wingspan and wing movements of pterosaurs, assumptions were made that these creatures were able to fly soon after hatching out from the eggs. This also highlights the fact that not much parental care was given by adults.
The Quetzalcoatlus (meaning: feathered serpent God) did not possess any feathers. Instead, they were covered in scales. The complete fossil retrieved reveals to us that these creatures were huge in size with a large wingspan. Their head was used to control their movements and make sharp turns. Despite their huge body, their bones were hollow and light. This allowed them to launch themselves in the air. The Quetzalcoatlus skull suggests that they had jaws without any teeth and thus, they swallowed their prey.
*Please note that this is an image of a Campylognathoides, not a Quetzalcoatlus. If you have an image of Quetzalcoatlus, please let us know at [email protected].
Although the total number of bones in this pterosaur is unknown to us, the Quetzalcoatlus bones excavated from the Big Bend National Park in Texas, included the forearms and other bones of the partial wing. Further research in the years 1972 and 1974, conducted by Lawson and Langston, gave way to the new set of skeletons of these juvenile pterosaurs. More remains of the larger specimens of the Quetzalcoatlus bones were excavated in the later years, which includes the partial skulls, fragmentary wing bones, and neck vertebrae. All of these helped the researchers to draw an outline of the morphology of these second largest flying reptiles.
These pterosaurs were able to communicate both visually and vocally.
Quetzalcoatlus species are considered one of the largest flying reptiles that the world has known. Their size was about 26 ft (8 m). The Quetzalcoatlus wingspan was about 38-39 ft (11-12 m). They were way bigger than the pterosaur, Nemicolopterus, which had a wingspan of only 10 in (25 cm).
After extensive research on the Quetzalcoatlus skeleton, paleontologists reveal to us that this creature flew with a speed of 80 mph (128 kph) at elevations of 10000 to 15000 ft in the sky. They may have used both their wings and hind legs to walk upon landing on the ground. The hollow bones made it possible for them to fly at such great elevations. Their wings were made of leathery skin with extended flaps. From various assumptions made by researchers, we can conclude that these pterosaurs were completely featherless, and possessed scales just like the reptiles. Therefore, they were cold-blooded animals, that hunted down their prey on the ground as well as in flight.
The Quetzalcoatlus weight was about 551 lbs (250 kg). However, this weight is under much debate, as several pieces of research conducted earlier, highlight their weight to be 200 - 300 lb (90-136 kg).
There are no particular names given to the male and female Quetzalcoatlus species.
A baby Quetzalcoatlus creature may be called a hatchling or a nestling, owing to the fact that this reptile reproduced by laying eggs.
The skeleton of this animal reveals to us that they were savage predators and hunted down animals, including small dinosaurs, with their toothless jaws and sharp claws. Their massive wings in flight helped them to launch an attack and chase down their prey. Apart from flying in the air, these creatures were also great at terrestrial hunting. They tracked down fish from shallow water regions. Due to a lack of their jaws, these pterosaurs possibly plucked fish off the surface of the water. They also used their folded-up wings as legs and gobbled up worms, crabs, and other insects from the ground. Their diet was much related to a complete carnivore. However, certain theories have also put forth the assumptions that these creatures scavenged on the corpses of titanosaurs.
The Quetzalcoatlus was a complete carnivore and possessed a massive body with a huge wingspan. Therefore, we can assume that these creatures were aggressive in nature and attacked their prey both in flight and on the ground with their wings and legs.
Due to their gigantic size, researchers have pointed out that they were able to carry humans. However, their stiff neck and toothless jaw wouldn't have allowed them to chew down their prey. So they may have just gobbled down their food.
If you want to catch a glimpse of this enormous beast, you can visit the Big Bend National Park, where a giant Quetzalcoatlus model of 18 ft in length flies above you. Numerous life-sized models of this creature are created and put on display at the South Bank of London, which attracts thousands of people every year. The scientists of the University of Portsmouth created these models.
This animal was named after the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl, which means 'feathered serpent God'. Even though these creatures did not possess any feathers and had only scales, the name was appropriate owing to their massive size and incredible hunting skills. Various tales in Central American mythology described this creature that dates back to 500 A.D.
The Hatzegopteryx species were bigger than the Quetzalcoatlus. The skull of the Hatzegopteryx was about 9.8 ft (3 mt) in length and the wingspan was 40 ft (12 mt). The Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan smaller than these creatures.