Fast Facts

  • Pterodactyls were winged reptiles who lived in the Jurassic period (about 150 million years ago.)
  • Many pterodactyl fossils are preserved in Bavaria, Germany. During the Jurassic, the region was a swampy wetland at the edge of an ancient sea. Organisms that fell or washed into the wetland became buried in soft mud. This mud slowly hardened into limestone, turning the organisms' bodies into fossils.
  • "Pterodactyl" combines the Greek words for "wing" (ptero) and "finger" (dactyl). Pterodactyls flew using wings formed by a tough membrane stretching from their bodies to their elongated fourth finger. (The fourth fingers on this pterodactyl stretch all the way past the animal's tailbone!)
  • A pterodactyl's wingspan was about 1 meter (3 feet).
  • Pterodactyls had long beaks filled with about 90 teeth. They used these teeth to prey on fish, the main source of food in their diet.
  • Pterodactyls were not dinosaurs! Dinosaurs are generally considered to walk upright, on either two legs (like T.Rex) or four legs (like stegosaurus). Pterodactyls usually didn't walk at all (they flew), and when they did walk, they waddled on their back legs and pointed wings. Animals like pterodactyls are called pterosaurs.

For Further Exploration

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

ancient

Adjective

very old.

diet

Noun

foods eaten by a specific group of people or other organisms.

Encyclopedic Entry: diet

dinosaur

Noun

very large, extinct reptile chiefly from the Mesozoic Era, 251 million to 65 million years ago.

fossil

Noun

remnant, impression, or trace of an ancient organism.

Encyclopedic Entry: fossil

limestone

Noun

type of sedimentary rock mostly made of calcium carbonate from shells and skeletons of marine organisms.

membrane

Noun

thin coating of material that certain substances, such as water, can pass through.

mud

Noun

wet soil.

prey

Noun

animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

pterosaur

Noun

extinct order of flying reptiles that flourished from 220 million-65 million years ago.

region

Noun

any area on the Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

Encyclopedic Entry: region

reptile

Noun

animal that breathes air and usually has scales.

swamp

Noun

land permanently saturated with water and sometimes covered with it.

Encyclopedic Entry: swamp

wetland

Noun

area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.

Encyclopedic Entry: wetland

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Jonathan Blair

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

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