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Friday Creature Feature: Quetzalcoatlus
Sankar Chatterjee, Horn Professor of Geosciences and curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech University presented a description, created by a computer model, of Quetzalcoatlus’s flight dynamics earlier this week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Quetzalcoatlus’s (named after the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl depicted as a feathered serpent and god of intelligence) fossil was discovered over twenty years ago in Big Bend National Park in Texas, a mountainous Western part of the state that borders Mexico. It lived in that area in the Late Cretaceous period about 60 million years ago.
The pterosaur, or flying lizard like a pterodactyl, weighed about 155 pounds and had a 34-foot wingspan, close to the size of an F-16 fighter jet. The creature is considered to be the largest flying animal to be discovered and “created a frightening shadow as it soared across the sky” like Donald Trump’s airplane.
Unlike a F-16 fighter Quetzalcoatlus wasn’t built as efficiently and had difficulty landing:
"This animal probably flew like an albatross or a frigate bird in that it could soar and glide very well," Chatterjee said in a press release. "It spent most of its time in the air. But when it comes to takeoff and landing, they're so awkward that they had to run. If it were taking off from a cliff, then it was OK. But if Quetzalcoatlus were on the ground, it probably had to find a sloping area like a river bank, and then run quickly on four feet, then two to pick up enough power to get into the air. It needed an area to taxi."
It had a five-foot-long skull with a beak and when standing it was about as tall as a giraffe- somewhere between 16-20 feet tall- and had neck just as impressive. It’s massive wings were like a seabird’s: long, narrow, flat, and pointed. Its bones were light and hollow but strong despite this and its skeletal structure it wasn’t able to flap its wings efficiently which is why it preferred to soar and glide. Quetzalcoatlus’s gliding angle about two degrees and it could cruise at a speed of 36 miles per hour.
When it did come down to the land it was either to nest or to forage for food. Researchers think Quetzalcoatlus ate the way storks do: picking its way through terrain and streams hunting and gulping down small vertebrates.
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.