That is one big-ass dinosaur. Archeologists in Texas have discovered fossils of the biggest animal ever to fly in the history of ever. Quetzalcoatlus, a mammoth flying pterosaur named after a serpent god, somehow managed to get off the ground, despite having a 34-foot wingspan, roughly the size an F-16 fighter jet. Check out this video to see an animated interpretation of how these beasts managed to take to the skies.
Located in an area without a lot of tall cliffs from which to fling themselves, these behemoths used improvised prehistoric runways in order to get the speed necessary to get off the ground. They ran along downward slopes in order to achieve the speed and power required for flight. This must have been one hell of a sight to behold. Imagine one of these giant beasts lumbering down the slope of a valley, flapping its wings, trying to fly.
Quetzalcoatlus would start running on all fours, rising up onto its hind legs as speed increased. Once it was travelling fast enough, the dinosaur would give a little hop, flap its wings, and begin soaring through the air like a lizard-y jumbo jet.
This is a technique favored by modern-day hang gliders. And much like their present-day counterparts, Quetzalcoatlus also relied on updrafts in order to boost it into the air, and to stay aloft once airborne. A strong skeleton of hollow bones allowed what one researcher at Texas Tech University calls “a marvel of engineering.”
While taking off was an awkward proposition, landing presented another set of problems entirely. At 155 pounds, touching down involved a great deal of frantic flapping. Much like lift-off in reverse, Quetzalcoatlus would land on its back feet, and run for a while until it was able to settle back down onto all fours.