Ornithocheirus – Giant Flying Reptile
The origins of the Pterosaurs or flying reptiles remain uncertain. What is for sure is that these creatures evolved during the Mid to Late Triassic and they went onto dominate life in the air for the best part of seventy million years before the avian dinosaurs (birds) came to prominence. The first Pterosaurs may have been small, but by the time of Ornithocheirus much larger forms had evolved. Known from fragmentary fossil material, the flying reptiles that make up the various species assigned to this genus were all huge compared to their Triassic ancestors.
Fossils assigned to the Ornithocheirus genus have been found in Europe, South America, Africa and Australia and date from the Cretaceous. Ornithocheirus was not a dinosaur but a flying reptile, a member of the Pterosauria which were distantly related to dinosaurs, sharing a common ancestor but the exact relationship between the Pterosauria and the Dinosauria is unclear. Due to the poorly preserved and fragmentary nature of much of the fossil material ascribed to this genus, precise classification at the species level is extremely difficult. The first formal study of fossils relating to Ornithocheirus was carried out by the famous English scientist, and contemporary of Charles Darwin, Harry Govier Seeley in 1869, It was this English palaeontologist who first established the Ornithocheirus genus.
Is Ornithocheirus the Largest Flying Reptile Known to Science?
Large fossilised Pterosaur fragments found in the Santana Formation of northeast Brazil have been assigned to Ornithocheirus. Initial assessments indicated an animal with a wingspan of perhaps twelve metres but these fossils have not been fully described and the conclusions drawn from the earlier research are disputed. It is because of these South American fossils that Ornithocheirus is sometimes described as the largest flying creature of all time.
A Description of Ornithocheirus
Like all Pterosaurs, the wings of this flying reptile were formed out of skin that stretched from the body over the forelimbs and along a greatly extended fourth digit that acted as a supporting strut. The wing membranes were probably covered in fine, insulating hairs and were joined to the body at the ankles. Ornithocheirus probably had a short, stumpy tail. The neck was long and it supported a large head with elongated jaws, lined in most species, with many large, conical-shaped teeth. tortoise for sale
Some fossil jawbones indicate that certain species of Ornithocheirus had small crests on the tip of the upper and lower jaws. These crests may have acted as stabilisers in flight or may have assisted the animal to plough its jaws through surface waters as it attempted to snatch up fish.
The Collecta Ornithocheirus Flying Reptile Model
With a wingspan measuring over twenty-two centimetres and standing more than ten centimetres tall, the Collecta Ornithocheirus model is most impressive. The model makers have cleverly overcome the debate over just how big species of this Pterosaur were, by not making this model to scale. Still, it is the largest not-to-scale flying reptile model in the current Collecta range.