Some of the Triassic period’s (251 - 199 million years ago) most formidable threats were not dinosaurs, but animals more closely related to crocodiles. In 2010, paleontologists discovered a nearly complete skeleton of Prestosuchus chiniquensis in Brazil, which offered additional insight into the lives of these apex predators. Paleontologists found the fossil in a sedimentary rock formation that was a lake millions of years ago. At around 20 feet long and 900 pounds, Prestosuchus had a deep skull, serrated teeth, and a long tail. Paleontologists think that the animal may have been preying on herbivores who’d come to the water to drink.
Want to assemble a life-sized cast skeleton of Prestosuchus? Visit the Museum’s Discovery Room: https://goo.gl/HYbLvR
Megalania is an extinct genus of giant monitor lizard from southern Australia. It currently only has one known species, Megalania prisca, and is the largest known terrestrial lizard to have lived. Size estimates range quite a bit, putting it between 4.5 meters to 7 meters in length, and 320 kg to 600 kg in weight.
Quetzalcoatlus goes down in history as the largest flying organism of all time, with a wingspan of 12 metres, which is larger than some planes. Quetzalcoatlus was the undisputed king of the Late cretaceous skies, so it seems fitting that its name is derived from an Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. Although its wingspan is impressive, Quetzalcoatlus also had a huge 2.5 metre long skull, that is the average height of an Asian elephant! To get such a huge animal in the air, a complex system of air sacs was needed inside the bones, this meant that Quetzalcoatlus probably weighed no more than 250kg. Quetzalcoatlus, along with many pterosaurs, was originally thought to spend most of its time gliding over the oceans, skimming fish out from the surface of the water with their elongated beaks. However, due to the skull and beak morphology and the presence of fossils far inland it has become more widely accepted that Quetzalcoatlus stalked prey far below on the land. The fore and hind limb morphology of Quetzalcoatlus also suggests that they were competent walkers on the land, they would have stood up to 3 metres tall.
The feeding habits of Quetzalcoatlus still remain something of a mystery. It was originally thought to be more of a scavenger, but the blunt beak was unsuited to stripping and picking flesh of a bony creature. It is more likely that Quetzalcoatlus hunted like modern-day storks, stalking the land from the skies above for smaller animals and then swooping down to eat them whole.