Pterosaur

a golden eagle soars across the sky
Like an eagle, I most likely took advantage of thermals (rising warm air) to gain high altitude for long distance soaring. However, unlike modern birds I probably walked on all four feet while on the ground.

NPS Photo / Emily Brouwer

 
a computer image of a pterosaur flying
Pterosaur is Greek for “winged lizard”. This group of flying reptiles includes the largest vertebrate ever known to fly. Although pterosaurs were contemporaries of dinosaurs, pterosaurs are non-dinosaurian reptiles. The fascination with dinosaurs often overshadows the fact that the Mesozoic (the era in which the Cretaceous time period belongs) is really the “Age of Reptiles”. Other Mesozoic reptiles known to science include mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, phytosaurs, turtles, and crocodiles.

Identification Level: Order
Numerous types of pterosaurs lived around the globe during the Late Cretaceous Period. Paleontologists are eagerly searching for more fossils in order to further hone the specific identity of Denali’s pterosaurs.

What is for dinner?
Although they ruled the sky, pterosaurs likely hunted for their meals in the water. Pterosaurs in interior Alaska most likely ate fish and snapped them up in their beaks from river and lake waters.
 
a fossilized track of a pterosaur
How do we know I lived in Denali?
So far, Denali is the only place in Alaska where we have found evidence of pterosaurs. It has been deduced that one particular fossil track was created by an individual that likely weighed 35 pounds and had a 25-foot wingspan. When on the ground, pterosaurs walked on all fours, leaving distinctive three-digit hand prints.

Fun fact
Denali preserves the first evidence of pterosaurs in Alaska. These tracks extend the known northern range of pterosaurs by several degrees of latitude and several thousand kilometers.
 
a size comparison that shows that a pterosaur was the size of a small airplane
How do I size up? - Pterosaurs come in all sizes, from as small as a sparrow to as big as a small private jet. The largest pterosaur from Denali is estimated to be similar in weight to a microwave oven, but with a wingspan that is roughly the height of a two-story house!

Last updated: August 16, 2016

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755

Phone:

(907) 683-9532
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