Pterodactylus was neither bat nor bird but sui generis

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Cuvier’s felicitous name for this creature was Pterodactylus-literally translated, “wing-finger.”(realistic dinosaur) With the stroke of his pen, the baron evoked a creature without precedent in human knowledge: a large-headed aerialist that supported its batlike wing membranes on a single, elongated finger in each wing. (dinosaur factory)This single finger alone was longer than the creature’s head and body. Its long jaws set with small teeth and the general cast of the skull proved that Cuvier’s Pterodactylus was neither bat nor bird but sui generis, a unique and totally extinct order of organic creation.

 

Cuvier decided Pterodactylus was closer to the crocodiles than to any other living family and thus was born the term “flying reptile.” No other creature resurrected from the rock by the baron’s scholarship gripped the public imagination more than Pterodactylus and its leather-winged kin. (lifelike animatronic dinosaur)Nineteenth-century engineers and inventors regarded flight as the highest form of locomotion in the Scala Naturae, and they wistfully scrutinized bats and birds as attempt after attempt to build a flying machine failed. (real size dinosaur)But there in the Jurassic strata was a “reptile,” a member of the lower verte-brate class, possessing a breastbone keeled for flight muscles and arms designed for powerful flapping. “Flying reptile” seemed a contradiction in terms-by definition reptiles were crawling things, condemned to slinking across the surface. But Cuvier’s Pterodactylus tore a veil from the present, revealing the unexpected achievements of the Reptilia past.