Quetzalcoatlus, named for the Aztec feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl, was a pterodactyloid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous period of North America during the Campanian – Maastrichtian stages, around 84 – 65 million years ago.

During the Cretaceous period, the climate was like modern tropical coastal wetlands and lagoons, extending along the Cretaceous Seaway that filled the centre of North America.

Quetzalcoatlus was one of the largest known flying animals of all time. It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a group of advanced toothless pterosaurs. Quetzalcoatlus died out about 65 million years ago, during the K-T mass extinction.

When and who discovered Quetzalcoatlus?

The first Quetzalcoatlus fossil was discovered in Texas in 1971 by Douglas A. Lawson.Bones of other related animals are also known from Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.


LeCire, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

How big was Quetzalcoatlus?

Quetzalcoatlus was a flying reptile whose wingspan was just under 36 feet wide (10.96 metres). It had hollow bones, was lightly built and had a small body. Even though it was very big, it probably weighed only about 135 kilograms (300 pounds).

It had toothless jaws and a long, thin beak. Its neck measured 10 feet (3 metres) long and its legs were over 7 feet (2.1 metres) in length, as was its long head.


Joschua Knüppe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Quetzalcoatlus had a large brain and large eyes, suggesting it had excellent eyesight. Its body may have been covered in fur-like fuzz (modified scales). A lightweight, bony crest on top of its head may have been a mating characteristic. The crest might have acted as a rudder for flying.

How did Quetzalcoatlus hunt?

Quetzalcoatlus was a carnivore and skimmed the water in search prey. It lived inland from the sea, near fresh-water ponds (so its diet was not primarily sea fishes and marine mollusks like other pterosaurs).

It probably ate arthropods (like early crayfish) and dying animals. Quetzalcoatlus probably hunted its prey by gliding towards the water and scooping up its meals in its long beak. It filtered its food through its long, pointed, toothless jaws.

How did Quetzalcoatlus move around?

Presumably Quetzalcoatlus could take off under its own power, but once aloft it may have spent much of its time soaring on the air thermals. On the ground, Quetzalcoatlus probably walked on all 4 limbs.

Quetzalcoatlus wings

Quetzalcoatlus wings were covered by a leathery membrane and were over 9 inches (23 centimetres) thick at the elbow. This thin but tough membrane stretched between its body, the top of its legs and its elongated fourth fingers, forming the structure of the wing. Its fingers were equipped with claws. Quetzalcoatlus was capable of flying long distances.


Johnson Mortimer, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Last Updated on 15/07/2022 by