Are Pterodactyls Dinosaurs? Learn More About These Prehistoric Predators

These pterrific facts will help you answer the popular question of whether pterodactyls are dinosaurs!

Pterodactyls, the common name for pterosaurs, are an extinct group of winged reptiles. There was a genus of pterosaur called Pterodactylus – which is where the word “pterodactyl” comes from – but not all pterosaurs belong to this genus.   

Are pterosaurs birds, dinosaurs, or mammals? The answer? D: none of the above! Because they flew and their front limbs stretch out to the sides, they are not dinosaurs. Instead, they’re a distant dinosaur cousin.

 

Pterosaurs lived from the late Triassic Period to the end of the Cretaceous Period, when they went extinct along with dinosaurs. Pterosaurs were carnivores, feeding mostly on fish and small animals. Many had hooked claws and sharp teeth that they used to grab their prey.

Pterosaurs evolved into dozens of individual species. Some were as large as F-16 fighter jets, while others were as small as paper airplanes.

They were also the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight. This means they didn’t just leap into the air or glide but flapped their wings to generate lift.

However, not all pterosaurs could fly. Pterodactylus flew using wings formed by a tough, thin membrane stretching along their bodies to their elongated fourth finger.  

Pterodactyls are carnivores

 

Like birds, pterosaurs had lightweight, hollow bones. Pterosaur skeletons survive as fossils only when their bodies came to rest in a very protected environment. Most pterosaur remains come from species that lived near the ocean or sea.  

Many Pterodactylus fossils are preserved in Bavaria, Germany. During the Jurassic period, the region was a swampy wetland at the edge of an ancient sea. Organisms that washed into the wetland became buried in the mud. This mud slowly hardened into limestone and the bones fossilized.  

Pterodactyls dinosaur fossil

While Pterodactyls are not classified as dinosaurs, they still have a lot in common with other prehistoric predators, and we still have much to learn about them. The rarity of fossils leaves major gaps in our knowledge about pterosaurs. How did they evolve flight? Why did they vanish? What exactly did they look like? Maybe one day you’ll help find answers to these questions! 

Expand on the activity! 

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

How to Fold a Paper T.rex: Origami Dinosaur DIY

DINO-mite project alert! Learn how to fold a paper T.rex!

Watch the video below to learn how to fold a paper T. rex! You’ll have a rawr-ing good time making them and playing with them. We just hope your arms are longer than a T. rex’s.   

Materials you will need:

  • A square piece of paper or a piece of paper you can turn into a square. We recommend using one that is at least 6 in x 6 in.
  • Learn how to use any paper for origami paper here.

Try a T.rex

Once you've got or cut your 6 in x 6 in origami paper, follow along with the steps to make your origami dinosaur. While you're learning how to fold a paper T.rex, consider the following: 

  • Can you name three facts about a Tyrannosaurus rex? 
  • What is one question you have about dinosaurs? 
  • How many different dinosaurs can you name?

Expand on the activity! 

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

Are Birds Dinosaurs? Looking Into the Dino-Dominated Past

Three toes. Two legs. Little arms. Are dinosaurs birds, or are birds dinosaurs?

Have you ever wanted to see a dinosaur in real life? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to go somewhere like a Jurassic Zoo or a Cretaceous Park and see a T. rex or Apatosaurus doing its dino thing? Creatures such as sharks and horseshoes crabs have stood the test of time, and their descendants can be observed today. But what about other ancient animals? 

We can learn a great deal by looking at their fossils, but there is something else we can do in our modern era to get a glimpse at what dinosaurs may have been like: go bird watching! That’s right! As strange as it may seem, there is a large body of evidence collected by scientists that suggests that birds are in fact the closest living relatives to dinosaurs! But before you grab your hiking gear and binoculars, here are a few cool facts to help you answer the question, "Are birds dinosaurs?"

A dinosaur named Archaeopteryx may be the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds.

Archaeopteryx was discovered in Germany and was surprisingly well preserved. Paleontologists found one specimen that still had feathers! It was long believed that

Archaeopteryx was the first bird, but upon further study, it was found to be more closely related to the Maniraptoran family of dinosaurs than modern birds. This further cemented its place as a bridge, or transition fossil, between dinosaurs and birds.

Archaeopteryx fossils are birds

Birds are related to theropod dinosaurs — a group that includes the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Theropods were bipedal dinosaurs, meaning they walked on two legs, not four like many other dinosaurs. When we look at the modern-day emu or ostrich, the resemblance to these dinosaurs is striking, especially when examining their bone structure.

However, they are not the only birds with similarities to theropods. Underneath Orlando Science Center’s resident T. rex, Stan, we have a skeleton of a chicken to show their shared ancestry. Comparing the two makes one realize how lucky we are that chickens don’t get as big as the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.

bird and dinosaur skeleton

Birds have scales like many dinosaurs and some dinosaurs may have had feathers.

Scientists have discovered that the tissues used to produce scales in reptiles are similar to those that produce feathers in birds. This suggests that there is a common ancestor between dinosaurs, birds, and reptiles. Furthermore, birds have scales on their feet!

A recently discovered dinosaur in China had preserved skin with what looks like feathers, or what paleontologists refer to as proto-feathers. However, further study is required, and this is a topic of debate among scientists.

bird and dinosaurs has scales

Birds lay eggs similar to dinosaurs and reptiles.

The similarities between bird and reptile eggs are well known, but they also share traits with dinosaur eggs.

Most dinosaur eggs are hard-shelled, just like the eggs of our modern-day feathered friends. They are also both made up of the same basic elements, calcium, and carbon, which form crystal structures that make the eggshell more difficult to crack.

dinosaurs and birds lay similar eggs

Some modern birds still have claws similar to Maniraptoran dinosaurs.

There is a reason modern birds of prey are often referred to as raptors. Their talons have a similar curvature to those found in dinosaurs like the velociraptor. In the case of the bald eagle, these talons are used to tightly grip their prey.

Other birds have different uses for their talons. The cassowary, native to Australia, is a large flightless bird that can grow as tall as 5.6 feet. With a large crest on their head and blue skin, they look like they walked right out of a time machine! Their claws are mainly used in self-defense. When threatened, these modern-day dinos will rear up and attempt to jab at their attacker with frightening precision.

raptor dinosaur and birds

Expand on the lesson!

So, are birds dinosaurs? Now that we've explored this question, and have learned about how birds are related to dinosaurs, you can go out bird watching and make your own scientific observations! Here in Florida, you don’t have to travel far to spot dinosaur descendants. Birds like the sandhill crane, red-shouldered hawk, and bald eagle can be found in your own backyard or on a short hike!  Create and chart your observations with this DIY animal chart activity!

Make sure to stay safe and take precautions while looking for dino descendants! If you want to learn more about living animals or dinosaurs, be sure to stop by Natureworks or DinoDigs at the Orlando Science Center. We look forward to seeing you!

are sand crane birds dinosaurs

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!