Order - Pterosauria
Family - Azhdarchidae
Genus – Quetlzalcoatlus (named after the the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, a legendary feathered serpent)
Species – Q. northropi, Q. lawsoni
Quetzalcoatlus was one of the last pterosaurs to live, existing right near the end of the Cretaceous Period around 68 to 66 million years ago. The area in which it lived was likely mostly a dry plains environment.
Quetzalcoatlus’s feeding habits have long puzzled scientists. It was originally thought to be a scavenger, feeding on already dead animals. Later research suggested it may have fed on fish. However, even more recent examinations show that Quetzalcoatlus did not live near any significantly large bodies of water, so a new idea was proposed. It is now thought it may have hunted like modern storks, stalking the land for smaller animals to grab in its large beak.
Though it had huge wings and was capable of flight, some scientists believe that Quetzalcoatlus spent much of its time on land, walking around on four legs. The exact nature of its flying ability is still under debate. Some scientists think it could only fly for short distances. Others believe it soared high in the sky using air currents like some large modern day birds. Other scientists believe it was a powerful flyer and could fly long distances under its own power without relying on air currents.
Quetzalcoatlus was a very large pterosaur, standing over 10 feet tall at the shoulder. Including its long neck and head, it was about as tall as a giraffe, nearly 18 feet. It had two huge wings, each of which was made of a membrane that stretched from an elongated finger on its hand all the way to its foot. It had a wingspan of 36 feet, and was about the size of a small airplane.
Its neck was long and thin, and its huge head was largely comprised of a massive, pointed beak. The back of its head featured a small crest.
Quetzalcoatlus fossils were first discovered in Texas in 1971 by Douglas Lawson, who was at the time a geology student. After finding further fossils, he named the pterosaur in 1975. The species name “northropi” refers to the Northrop Corporation, a developer of aircraft, referencing the pterosaur’s massive size and shape resembling a plane.
Further remains uncovered by Alexander Kellner and Wann Langston, Jr. were originally believed to be younger, smaller specimens of Q. northropi, but it was later suggested that they may be a completely new species, which was named C. lawsoni, in honor of Douglas Lawson.