Pteranodon Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The only thing scarier than a six-foot long reptile is a six-foot long reptile that flys! Meet the pteranodon, a flying reptile that lived about 85 to 75 million years ago.

The Flying Pteranodon

The creatures that inhabited the Earth during the late Cretaceous period (85 to 75 million years ago) were much different than the creatures that live here today. The pteranodon, which is pronounced 'teh-RAN-uh-don' (the 'p' is not pronounced), was one of those creatures.

This painting of a pteranodon gives you an idea of what they looked like and of life 85-75 million years ago.

The pteranodon looked like a dinosaur and flew, like a bird, but it wasn't a dinosaur or a bird; it was a type of pterosaur (pronounced 'TER-uh-sawr'), which were flying reptiles.

What Did They Look Like?

Pteranodons were about six feet long from head to toe and weighed about 35 pounds. This weight was light for the size of the creature, thanks to the fact that the pteranodon's bones were hollow, much like a bird's bones. Pteranodons could stand on their feet, each of which had four toes.

The wingspan of the pteranodon was thought to be 25 to 33 feet across; that's about as long as a three-story building is tall. The wings didn't have feathers; instead, they were more like a leathery sheet made of skin and other body tissues. The wings were stretched up the sides of the reptile's body, from the top of its leg to the very long fourth finger on its hand.

A drawing of a pteranodon showing its long fourth finger

The most distinct feature on a pteranodon could be found on its head. It had a toothless beak, like most birds of today, and it also had a bony crest on top of its head. This crest gave the pteranodon a pointy head that made it look like it was wearing a funny hat. Scientists think the winged reptile may have used the crest to stabilize flight, kind of like a rudder helps to control a boat in the water.

Where Did They Live and What Did They Eat?

We know pteranodons lived in areas that are now the United States because scientists uncovered fossils, which are remains of their bones or other tissues, of pteranodons in parts of Kansas, South Dakota, Wyoming and other states.

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