Short tailed pterodactyls generally had more specialized skulls

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Everywhere in the world's ecosystems the transition from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous was marked as a time of disaster, disturbance, and extinction. Flying dragons did not escape this vast ecological shake-up.(dinosaur exhibit suppliers) The experts divide all pterodactyls into two great tribes: the long-tails and the short-tails. After the Late Jurassic extinctions wiped out most of the previously dominant long-tails, the short-tailed species moved in to fill the Cretaceous skies. (animatronic dinosaur)Rhampborhynchus, with its fishing-spear head, was a long-tail; Baron Cuvier's Pterodactylus was a representative short-tail. By and large the long-tailed species did have fairly long tails and at least some of them possessed kitelike tail rudders.

 

Professor Othniel Marsh of Yale bought a superb Rhampborhynchus from German fossil dealers in the 1880s and subsequently announced to the envious Europeans that his skeleton possessed a tail rudder, previously un-known. Rhampborhynchus carried a vertical diamond-shaped fin at the end of its very long tail. (animatronic dinosaur factory)The fin consisted of tough skin rein-forced by rods of connective tissue. The entire tail could be en-ergetically swished by muscles at the base of the tail. The precise aerodynamic effects of this intriguing equipment aren't yet under-stood, but the kite-tailed pterodactyl must have exercised precise control over its maneuvers, at least at slow speeds.

 

Short-tailed pterodactyls generally had more specialized skulls, longer necks, and longer forearms than their long-tailed fore-bears—implying a fundamental change (still not well understood) in flight mechanics. This short-tailed Cretaceous dynasty certainly won an undisputed place in the book of aerial records, for it included the largest flying creatures ever to evolve. (realistic dinosaur costume)Marsh made headlines in the 1880s when he announced short-tailed pterodactyls from Kansas with wingspans of twenty feet or more. But the mind-boggling pterodactyl was yet to come. In the 1970s, Professor Wann Langston led teams from the University of Texas into the scorching badlands of Big Bend National Park where the Rio Grande makes its huge loop on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. When Langston discovered a Cretaceous pterodactyl at Big Bend, its upper arm bone measured twice the size of the next-largest known, and its jaws indicated a head eight feet long.

 

Preliminary reconstruction, based on the wing plans of smaller species, produced an estimated wingspan of up to twenty meters—sixty-three feet, greater than the wingspan of the old twin-engine DC-3 air-liners. (animatronic dinosaur costume)Quetzalcoatlus was featured on the cover of Science, the most widely read scholarly journal in the United States. Immediately after their paper came out in Science, Wann Langston and his students were attacked by aeronautical engineers who simply would not believe that the Big Bend dragon had a wingspan of forty feet or more. Such dimensions broke all the rules of flight engineering: a creature that large would have broken its arm bones if it tried to fly. (lifelike animatronic dinosaur)Quite a flap erupted over whether the Big 3end pterodactyl could even have powered its wings in the up-and-down strokes necessary for active flight. Under this hail of disbelief, Langston and his crew backed off somewhat. Since the complete wing bones hadn't been discovered, it was possible to reconstruct the Big Bend pterodactyl with wings much shorter than fifty feet.

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