Rulers of the Prehistoric Skies
Experience the largest animals that have ever flown! The Pterosaurs
are now at the Arizona Museum of Natural History!
The exhibition presents the amazing diversity of Pterosaurs, the flying
reptiles of the Mesozoic. Neither dinosaurs nor birds, Pterosaurs
ruled the skies from about 225 to 65 million years ago. Pteranodon
sternbergi is the large Pterosaur shown here, with a wingspan of 24
feet. To the left is Nyctosaurus, a fish-eater with an
L-shaped crest. The large crests on these two males are among the best
examples of sexual dimorphism among the Pterosaurs. Among females,
crests are absent or much reduced. Cretaceous Period, 85 million
The artist Ed Mack created this full-size model of Pteranodon sternbergi
for the Arizona Museum of Natural History. Cretaceous Period, 85
million years ago.
In addition to distinctively shaped, thin, hollow bones, Pterosaurs had
membranous wings which were probably flexible and able to change shape
during flight. Dimorphodon macronyx, Jurassic Period, 200
million years ago.
Darwinopterus model by Tim Walters for the Arizona Museum of
Natural History. Jurassic Period, 160 million years ago.
Quetzalcoatlus northropi, with a wingspan of 39 feet, is the
largest animal that has ever flown. Quetzalcoatlus
illustrates some of the difficulties paleontologists encounter in
reconstructing lifestyle based on incomplete fossil bones. Various
studies have explored how, or even if, Quetzalcoatlus could have
flown. Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago, from Texas.
“Ptweety,” a juvenile Pteranodon. Pterosaurs emerged from the
egg little versions of their adult forms, unlike birds, which require adult
care and further development after hatching before they can fly.
Although a quarter the size of an adult Pteranodon, “Pweety” is
twice the size of a hatchling. Cretaceous Period, 85 million years.
The sharp teeth at the front of the mouth of Ornithocheirus suggest
that it captured its food by grabbing its prey, probably fish. Mike
Keller sculpted these models for the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
Cretaceous Period, 110 million years ago.
Dsungaripterus had robust teeth ideal for crushing clams or other
hard-bodied prey. Sculpture by Mike Keller. Cretaceous Period,
130 million years ago.
Pterodaustro, a filter-feeder from the Cretaceous of Chile and
Argentina, 105 million years ago. Pterodaustro probably used
its mouth to capture crustaceans (shrimp-kin) for food. Illustration by
Mark Witton, foreground model by Mike Keller.
53 N. Macdonald
Mesa, AZ 85201
(One block north of Main Street in downtown Mesa. Take US 60 or 202 to
Country Club Drive, go to Main Street, and proceed one-half mile east to