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Pterodactyl (wing finger) have very long 4th fingers, at least as long as the rest of the arm; humerus, radius/ulna and wrist. They are also known as Pterosaurs (winged lizards). Early ones looked much like long armed lizards with long tails that were used as a rudder for navigation. The big crest on the back of the skull was a rudder to allow visual navigation. If the animal looked left the air pressure on the right side of the rudder would push it in the direction it was looking and vice versa.

The dark spot on the roof of the mouth represents the nasal opening into the throat. It was researched and painted by one of Charles Dailey's female zoology students. The model builders have represented a 2/3 grown version of this animal. They are known to have grown to 24 feet wide. The finger bones/joints are not quite right. They are like those found in mammals with 2, 3, 3, and 3 bones per digit for the first four. The third fingers should each have 4 bones and three joints and the long 4th finger should have 5 bones and four joints. They don’t form a 5th ‘finger’.

One of the last of the pterodactyls, Quetzalcoatalus northropi, grew to be approximately 50 feet from wing tip to wing tip. It did not have a big skull crest or a long tail. The long snout and assistance from raised fingers 1, 2 and 3 or dragging a foot accomplished aerodynamic adjustments.

This Display's History

One day biology instructor Charles Dailey logged onto the internet to look for pterodactyl models to buy for his zoology class. He expected small plastic models. He found some but also located a 16 foot wide version. The owner was moving to a new home, and his wife informed him that it just wouldn’t fit in the new house. The foyer ceiling of Sewell Hall’s chemistry wing was just the right size to mount it there looking down on the dinosaur case. He submitted the winning bid and paid to have it boxed and shipped here. 

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