Quetzalcoatlus northropi — the largest flyer
This enormous pterosaur, or flying reptile, may have been the largest flying animal ever. Fragmentary fossils found in North America indicate that it had extremely thin but strong bones, a long toothless jaw and a long stiff neck. Its body was quite small, but provided an anchor for its huge leathery wings, which stretched from a very long fourth finger to the top of its leg. Its 12-metre wingspan would have enabled it to soar and glide over long distances, while its keen eyesight would have meant that it could locate food from high in the sky.
Some pterosaurs were skim feeders, some plucked fish from the sea while flying and others still were waders, using their long jaws to extract crustaceans from mudflats. But there is evidence that Quetzalcoatlus was different from other pterosaurs. It’s unlikely to have been a skim feeder, as its fossils have not been found in coastal areas and its jaw was probably not strong enough to skim feed. It is also unlikely to have been a wader, as it had padded feet rather than the wide feet of a wader, and probably walked on all fours. Recent evidence suggests that Quetzalcoatlus may have had feeding habits a bit like those of modern storks, combining scavenging for carrion, with preying on small animals, such as small dinosaurs.