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Quetzalcoatlus northropi was an extinct pterosaur (a flying reptile) that lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous period. Although body sizes vary across species, the genus Quetzalcoatl includes some of the largest flying creatures ever discovered. It belongs to the group of higher flying reptiles characterized by a toothless jaw and often long, stiff neck. Quetzalcoatlus northropi lived alongside the Late Cretaceous dinosaurs and suffered the same fate that befell them at the end of that period.
description and size
Quetzalcoatlus northropi was one of the largest flying animals that ever lived. It lived on Earth approximately 1.44 to 67 million years ago, and ruled the skies along with the last dinosaurs to rule terrestrial habitats.
The genus is named after Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec feathered serpent god. Quetzalcoatlus belongs to the family of flying reptiles called Azhdarchidae. This particular name was given in honor of John Knudsen Northrop, the founder of the Northrop Corporation. His company advanced the design of larger aircraft with tailless flying wings. This design was inspired by the Feathered Serpent.
Members of the Azhdarchidae family are often toothless and have unusually long and stiff necks. Their heads have pointed beaks and stork-like legs.
Quetzalcoatlus northropi is the largest member of the Quetzalcoatlus genus. It is said to stand as tall as a giraffe. The creature's wingspan is estimated to be about 52 feet, which would make it the largest flying animal ever discovered. However, more conservative estimates of wingspan average 33 to 36 feet.
Experts believe this pterosaur had a bipedal posture. A height estimate based on this assumption suggests it was at least 9.8 feet at the withers. The exact weight of Quetzalcoatlus northropi is difficult to determine due to the lack of any modern animals with a similar appearance. However, most estimates put the animal in the range of 440 to 550 pounds.
evolution and history
Quetzalcoatlus northropi belongs to the pterosaur family (Azhdarchidae), mainly living in the late Cretaceous period. However, paleontologists have found fossils dating back to the Early Cretaceous, meaning they may have evolved much earlier. They evolved from base pterosaurs. Earlier pterosaurs were smaller and had fully toothed lower jaws. They also have long tails.
Q. northropi is one of the surviving members of the pterosaur family. By the end of the Cretaceous period, the flying reptiles, along with the rest of the family, had grown so large that their jaws were toothless. Experts aren't sure if they lost the ability to fly during evolution, but many scientists think they can still fly.
Diet – What Does Quetzalcoatlus northropi Eat?
The feeding habits of Quetzalcoatlus northropi are controversial. Earlier, scientists thought it ate fish and crustaceans. Scientists have now disproved this theory because the fossils were found not near any famous lakes or rivers.
Another theory put forward for the animal's diet is that it was primarily a scavenger. This diet is often compared to storks, which feed on carrion but can also prey on smaller animals.
However, the lack of physical fitness in typical scavenger species (such as hookbills) does not support the scavenger theory. Instead, it suggests that Quetzalcoatlus fed like a modern-day skimmer, sifting prey out of the water.
A recent theory suggests that the reptile may have been an active predator that hunted its prey by stalking and attacking them. Like modern storks, Quetzalcoatlus northropi probably preyed on small vertebrates.
Habitat – When and Where Quetzalcoatlus northropi Lives
Quetzalcoatlus northropi lived in North and Central America during the Late Cretaceous period (1.44 to 67 million years ago). If Q. northropi ate fish, they must have lived near some kind of large water source for food.
The remains of Quetzalcoatlus northropi are mainly found in places such as Big Bend National Park in southern Texas, USA. The bed where the fossil was found was dominated by the dinosaur Alamosaurus. As the habitat of this dinosaur is known, the habitat of this reptile can also be speculated. Experts interpret the location of its discovery as a semi-arid inland plain.
Quetzalcoatlus first arose in North America, and its range gradually expanded. Experts believe that increasing aridity during the Cretaceous period may have favored the spread of Quetzalcoatl to other parts of the continent.
threats and predators
Not many predators would be large enough to kill an adult Q. northropi . However, juveniles fall prey to larger predators, including members of their own genus.
finds and fossils
In 1971, Douglas. A. Lawson, a graduate student in geology, discovered the first fossilized remains of an aeolian snake in Big Bend National Park, Texas. He also discovered a second location, not far from the first. Excavating the fossils took about two years.
Partial wing fragments of a gigantic creature were found at the first location. Lawson estimates a wingspan of up to 33 feet. The species was identified and named Quetzalcoatlus northropi . The second site contained skeletal fragments of three smaller individuals, later found to be of different species.
A detailed description of Quetzalcoatlus northropi took decades to be published. Many experts have noted similarities between the fossils of Q. northropi and those of other large azhdarchids, such as the Hatzegopteryx that lived in Europe. This means that the two animals may be the same species, spread over a wide area due to their ability to perform transcontinental flights. Hatzegopteryx may also be a European variety of Quetzalcoatlus northropi .
Extinction – When Quetzalcoatlus northropi became extinct
The end of the Cretaceous brought the demise of Quetzalcoatlus northropi and many other creatures, including all the dinosaurs. Some scientists think Quetzalcoatlus northropi survived the major extinction event because it could fly. However, it still didn't survive for long after this due to lack of food.
Animals similar to Quetzalcoatlus northropi
Animals similar to Q. northropi include:
- Azhdarcho – This is a genus of pterosaurs that lived in the late Cretaceous period. Since it also belongs to the Azhdarchidae family, Azhdarcho had an elongated neck and a toothless jaw.
- Arambourgiania – This is an extinct flying reptile that lived in Jordan during the Late Cretaceous period and probably in North America. It is one of the largest members of the Azhdarchidae family and one of the largest flying animals ever to exist.
- Hatzegopteryx – Hatzegopteryx lived in what is today Romania during the Late Cretaceous period. It grew on an island and evolved to a larger size than other animals in the same location.
See all 8 animals starting with Q
Quetzalcoatlus northropi was a pterosaur that lived in present-day North America. Pterosaurs lived between 1.1 and 66 million years ago. It was alive in the late Cretaceous period and became extinct due to the mass extinction event that occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period.
The average wingspan of Quetzalcoatlus northropi is about 36 feet. It is estimated that the largest individual ever found had a wingspan of 50 feet. The average flying reptile weighs 500 pounds.
No, Quetzalcoatlus wasn't as big as Tyrannosaurus rex. The Tyrannosaurus rex stood 20 feet tall and could reach a length of 40 feet. Weighing up to 30,000 pounds, the largest Quetzalcoatl is no match for it.