HomePLANTS & ANIMALSECOLOGYThe largest flying species behaved like a giant heron

The largest flying species behaved like a giant heron

The largest-ever flying animal used to act like a giant heron. They used to pluck prey from the water and launch itself into the air. Scientists have named it Quetzalcoatlus northropi and it was a pterosaur. This ruled the skies for millions of years.

How the largest animal has taken to the air have been revealed. It acted like heron on the ground and a condor in the skies. It had the wingspan of a small airplane. It lived in a wetland what is now known as Texas, U.S. over 67 million years ago. It had 11-meter-long wings. This means it would have had to jump up to 2.5 meters into the air. It also had powerful flaps.

Scientists also discovered a smaller relative of Quetzalcoatlus northropi, named Quetzalcoatlus lawsone. It had shorter wingspan which was around the length of a car. These two pterosaurs would have fed on a range of fish and small aquatic prey.

The findings of this research have been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The largest flying species behaved like a giant heron
Quetzalcoatlus northropi was discovered in Big Bend National Park in Texas in the 1970s. Credit: Zack Frank/Shutterstock

The titan of Texas

Quetzalcoatlus northropi was the largest pterosaur and it has been named in 1975 following the discovery of hundreds of bones in Big Bend National Park. The species had large bones of the left wing. But smaller bones were also found in other areas of the park.

But scientists were confused that if the smaller bones belong to young Q. northropi or it belongs to a different related species. Then scientists decided that the bones might belong to a new species of Quetzalcoatlus.

Scientists have finally analysed the smaller bones and found that they have a number of differences from the larger Q. northropi. It has a different skull structure and spine. This suggests that two other species of pterosaur were living side-by-side with the giant.

Scientists named Quetzalcoatlus lawsone in honor of Douglas Lawson, who first discovered the remains. The lawsone had a wingspan of around 4.5 meters. It has been found in rocks dated to around 69 million years ago.

Researchers also found few bones of a third species of pterosaur and named it Wellnhopterus brevirostris. It had a wingspan of three meters.

The scientists think there are chances for further species to be found at the site. But that will require further analysis of the current unclassified bones.


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