These pterodactyls had the wingspan of a F-16 fighter, but they may have been too out of shape to fly.
Bad news dragon riders: Your dragon can't take off.
A new analysis of the largest of pterodactyls suggests they were too big and their muscles too weak to vault into the air and fly. Instead, they were right at the upper limit of animal flight and needed a hill or stiff breeze so they could soar like hang gliders.
The new analysis was done on the enormous pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus from Late Cretaceous rocks of Big Bend, Texas. Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of about 35 feet (10.6 meters), or about the wingspan of a F-16 fighter. It was among the last pterodactyls to look down on dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The new study, presented on Nov. 7 at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Charlotte, N.C., puts the mass of the flying reptile at around 155 pounds (70 kilograms). That's near the upper limit of what flesh and bone can support in flight, according to paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.