Secret Base reviews: Pteranodon

New fossil hall at the National Museum of Natural History

Photo by Katherine Frey/ The Washington Post via Getty Images

I sometimes like to think about what discovering Pteranodon must have felt like. What, precisely, is the reference frame for a fish-eating flying reptile with a 20 ’ wingspan? The biggest fossils might have been mind-bogglingly gigantic, but at least they weren’t expected to do an aircraft impression. The largest flying fowl on the planet, the range albatross, is barely half the size of an adult Pteranodon. They’re hard enough to picture even if you’ve grown up on palaeontology bibles; imagine the surprise you’d feel if you were surprised by one.

It’s very possible that the palaeontologists who first exhumed Pterandon in the western United District didn’t consider much about this sort of thing. They were, after all, engaged in a fighting. Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh were the two lead mortals of 19 th-century American fossil chase, each striving to outdo the other in see as many fossils and dinosaur-adjacent critters as is practicable and each wholly willing to bribe and steal their way to renown. This ended unhappily for both Cope and Marsh — conducting a palaeontological battle is expensive business — but it did leave an enormous quantity of information to science.

For the record, Pterandon was first described by Marsh’s camp. But Cope experienced it very. In happening, if you’re in the liberty areas and looking at the freedom rocks, it’s hard-boiled not to find Pteranodon specimens: there have been more than a thousand of uncoverings met in the last century or so. Why are these fogies so common?

It’s partly to do with lifestyle. Due to the car-mechanics of fossilisation, characters that live in or over the sea have a much higher chance of being continued, and Pteranodon’s main diet was fish from the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow ocean which incorporates much of the present United States about 70 million years ago. It’s also partly to do with abundance. There were a lot of Pteranodon about back then.

One of the genus they shared the coasts with, incidentally, was a smaller pterosaur announced Nyctosaurus. I bring up Nyctosaurus largely so that we can all share a laugh at its stupid head.

Nyctosaurus had a gigantic and absurd double crest

Tim Evanson/ CC BY-SA( https :// creativecommons.org/ permissions/ by-sa/ 2.0)

When I was a kid, Pteranodon had lost a little of its lustre. The disclosure of of Quetzalcoatlus and the rest of the azhdarchids meant that Pterandon lost its status as the largest-known pterosaur, and more recent research into azhdarchid hunting behaviour has cast some of them — specially Hatzegopteryx — as giraffes that a) could fly and b) would happily munch you. Dangerously, look at this thing. It’s HORRIBLE 😛 TAGEND