More than dinosaurs

19 June, 2011

Model Pteradon
Model Pteradon
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: Did dinosaurs fly and swim?

Answer: Some types of dinosaurs probably could swim if they needed to, but there is no evidence of any fully aquatic dinosaurs. There were other famous reptiles that lived at the same time as dinosaurs that were very well adapted for swimming – these marine reptiles were not dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs had weight-bearing legs held under their body, whereas marine reptiles have flippers, which were adaptations to life underwater. Marine reptiles included Ichthyosaurs, Plesiosaurs, and Pliosaurs. You can see a beautiful fossil skull of an Ichthyosaur in the Melbourne Museum exhibition “600 Million Years – Victoria Evolves”

Similarly, some dinosaurs probably could fly – some palaeontologists would say that dinosaurs can fly, as birds are types of dinosaur. Certainly, some dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous had feathers that might’ve been capable of rudimentary flight (for example Archaeopteryx). Feathered flying dinosaurs, however, should not be confused with Pterosaurs. Pterosaurs were a group of flying reptiles quite different to all other reptiles – whilst they lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, they were well adapted for life on the wing and were probably quite clumsy as land animals. Interestingly, they were capable of flight but did not have any feathers – instead their wings were membranes of skin, and their body probably had a layer of fuzzy hair-like material. The largest Pterosaur was called Quetzalcoatlus, and its skeleton is on display in Melbourne Museum’s “Dinosaur Walk” exhibition. 

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