Pterodactyls (lat. Pterodactyloidea, from Greek. πτερ|ν “wing” and δ\κτυλος “finger”) a suborder of extinct reptiles of the order of flying pangolins (pterosaurs) that lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
In 1784 in Bavaria (Germany), an imprint of the skeleton of an previously unknown creature was found. A stone slab with an imprint was subjected to research, a drawing was also made from it. However, at that time, the researchers could not give any name to the found animal and classify it.
In 1801, the remains of the creature came to the French scientist Georges Cuvier. He established that the animal was capable of flight and belonged to the order of flying lizards. Cuvier also gave him a name “pterodactyl” (the name comes from a long toe on the front leg of the lizard and a leathery membrane (wing) that runs from it along the body to the back leg).
A highly specialized group adapted to life in the air. Pterodactyls are characterized by a strongly elongated light skull. Teeth are small. Cervical vertebrae elongated, without cervical ribs. The forelimbs are four-fingered; wings are powerful and wide; flying fingers folding. Tail is very short. The bones of the lower leg are fused.
The sizes of pterodactyls varied greatly from small ones, the size of a sparrow, to giant pteranodons with a wingspan of up to 15 meters, ornithocheirus and azhdarchids (quetzalcoatl, aramburgiana) with a wingspan of up to 12 meters.
Small ones ate insects, large ones fish and other aquatic animals. The remains of pterodactyls are known from the Upper Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits of Western Europe, East Africa and both Americas, Australia, in Russia the Volga region. On the banks of the Volga, the remains of a pterodactyl were first discovered in 2005.
The largest pterodactyl was found in Romania in the town of Sebes, Alba County; its wingspan is 16 m.
The order includes a number of families:
Istiodactylidae a family whose representatives lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. All finds of this family were made in the northern hemisphere North America, Europe and Asia. In 2011, a new species, Gwawinapterus beardi, was described and assigned to this family. It was found in Canada in Cretaceous deposits dating back to 75 million years ago. years.
Pteranodontidae is a family of large Cretaceous pterosaurs that lived in North America and Europe. This family includes the following genera: Bogolubovia, Nyctosaurus, Pteranodon, Ornithostoma, Muzquizopteryx. The remains of Ornithostoma, which is the oldest member of the family, were found in the UK.
Tapejaridae are known from finds from China and Brazil during the Early Cretaceous.
Azhdarchidae (the name is derived from Ajdarxo (from the old Persian Azi Dahaka), a dragon from Persian mythology). Known primarily from the end of the Cretaceous, although a number of isolated vertebrae are known from the Early Cretaceous (140 million. years ago). This family includes some of the largest flying animals known to science.