Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quetzalcoatlus northropi

What was as tall as a giraffe, weighed a scant 550 pounds, and could fly? This is not a trick question. Around 68 million years ago, such creatures tromped and flew over what is now Texas. Paleontologists know this animal as Quetzalcoatlus northropi – a fantastically huge pterosaur that belonged to a group called azhdarchids. The biggest members of this leathery-winged lineage were the largest creatures ever to fly over our planet, and the increasing amount of information paleontologists have gleaned from their bones has repeatedly underscored a persistent riddle. How did these unusual flyers get to be so enormous?
Superlative size sparks our imagination and demands explanation. We’re constantly drawn to mysteries such as why there aren’t anygargantuan bony fish filtering krill from the seas as there had been in the Jurassic, and, of course, why the most massive land mammal of all time wasn’t even close to the prodigious size of dinosaurian titans

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