Flying Dinosaurs: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Dinosaurs in the Sky?
  • 1:02 What Do They Look Like?
  • 2:24 Diet and Geneology
  • 3:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Sarah Caughron

Sarah has a master's degree in Applied Anthropology/Archaeology and has worked in formal and informal education since 2006.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

Open a book about dinosaurs, and you're greeted with pictures of dinosaurs on the land and in the sky. But, are they all really dinosaurs? Read on to find out about those ancient reptiles in the sky.

Dinosaurs in the Sky?

All dinosaurs were reptiles, which are cold-blooded animals that lay eggs and are largely covered in scales. Dinosaurs didn't swim or fly. Their legs were positioned under their body rather than out of the side of their body (think about a crocodile).

So what you might have thought were flying dinosaurs were actually what scientists call flying reptiles, known as pterosaurs. Examples of pterosaurs were Pteranodon and Pterodactylus. Aside from prehistoric insects, pterosaurs were the first known flying animals!

Dinosaurs and flying reptiles lived at the same time and shared habitats. In fact, like dinosaurs, pterosaur fossils have been found all over the world. Fossil evidence suggests that flying reptiles date back as early as the Late Triassic period (about 220 million years ago) and flew the ancient skies until the end of the Cretaceous period (about 65 million years ago).

What Do They Look Like?

Over 130 recognized types of pterosaurs are recognized by paleontologists, scientists who study fossils. This means that there was a tremendous amount of variety between the different species of ancient flying reptiles. Some pterosaurs were large, like the Pteranodon, with a wingspan of up to 20 feet, while others had a wingspan of only about 10 inches. That's an amazing amount of diversity in one animal type!

Despite this great diversity, pterosaurs share many physical characteristics. Like a modern pelican (sea-dwelling bird), pterosaurs had a pouch made of skin hanging from their long neck. Most pterosaurs had a long skull full of sharp teeth resembling needles. Pterosaurs had bony or fleshy crests on their heads, and some even had a combination of both! It is thought that these crests were used to help the pterosaur find a mate, but that is a topic that is still up for debate.

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Additional Activities

Flying Dinosaurs: Word Scramble Activity

In this activity, you'll check your knowledge regarding the dinosaurs that soar high above the sky.


For this activity, study the scrambled letters and try to unscramble or rearrange the letters to form a word or phrase that fits the given clues. To do this, you must right-click and print this page. With a pencil and an eraser, neatly write your answers in the appropriate blank spaces in the clues.

Scrambled Words

  10. UPHCO


  1. Pteranodons are one of the most recognizable pterosaurs having very large __________.
  2. A __________ is a scientist who studies the __________ remains of all kinds of organisms, including dinosaurs.
  3. __________ are a diverse group of reptiles, or cold-blooded creatures, that have become extinct.
  4. __________ are the first dinosaurs to develop the powered ability to fly and conquer the sky.
  5. The geologic period from about 250 to 200 million years ago is called the __________ period.
  6. Most pterosaur skulls had elongated jaws full of sharp teeth resembling __________.
  7. Animals that eat meat as the main part of their diet are called __________.
  8. Pterosaurs that lived by the water would feed on __________, squids, etc.
  9. __________ __________ evolved from dinosaurs based on their fossil and skeletal structures.
  10. Pterosaurs had a __________ made of skin hanging from their long neck.

Answer Key

  1. Wingspans
  2. Paleontologist, Fossilized
  3. Dinosaurs
  4. Pterosaurs
  5. Triassic
  6. Needles
  7. Carnivores
  8. Fishes
  9. Modern birds
  10. Pouch

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