Pteranodons and Pterodactyls were not actually dinosaurs. They belonged to a group of flying reptiles called pterosaurs. But pterosaurs have a lot in common with dinosaurs. They lived during the time - about 85 to 75 million years ago – and were also reptiles. But they did not live on land like most dinosaurs. Pteranodon spent most of its time in the air. Unlike the dinosaurs, it was able to fly. The earliest pterosaurs weren’t very large. They weighed about 35 pounds and their bodies were about the size of a crow. Later, they grew to be about 6 feet long and had a 25-foot wingspan. This is the length from the tip of one wing to the other. Twenty-five feet is about the length of a small bus. However, a Pteranodon’s wingspan was larger than any bird living today.
The bones in a Pteranodon’s wing look very different from those of bats and birds we know today. Birds lost their hands completely when they grew wings over millions of years. A bat’s entire hand became its wing, stretching out its fingers into long ribs. But only a pterosaur’s fourth finger grew into a very long, strong bone. It held a tough layer of skin called a membrane that grew all the way down to the top of its legs. This is how the Pterodactyl got its name, which means “wing finger”. They had hollow bones, so they were very light. It was important to be light when so much of their time was spent in the air. They had almost no tail and very small bodies.
Pteranodons were covered with very small, soft feathers called “down”. This might have looked and felt like fur. They had large brains and could see very well. They had sharp claws on their fingers that they used to grab their food. Some Pteranodons had long, bony crests on their heads. Paleontologists are still not sure what these were used for. They may have helped the creature to fly straight. Or they might have been large and colorful and useful for attracting a mate. Male Pteranodons might have had larger crests than females. Although they had no teeth, Pteranodons were carnivores, meaning that they ate meat. They hunted for fish by flying low over oceans and lakes. They may have hunted like pelicans, scooping fish straight out of the water and swallowing them whole. They also ate shellfish such as crabs and mussels. They probably ate insects and worms too.