This fossil of the pterosaur Pterodactylus kochi is preserved in limestone. Fossils of pterodactyls like this one have mostly been found in the Bavaria region of Germany.

Photograph by Jonathan Blair

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    • 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.
  • 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 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