Over the past few months, strange things have been happening at West Midland Safari Park…
Quetzalcoatlus lived around 70 to 65.5 million years ago during the Cretaceous period and was discovered in North America.
A family of gigantic pterosaurs joined Land of the Living Dinosaurs in early 2017. With a wing span averaging around 11 metres, quetzalcoatlus was the largest animal to have ever taken to the skies. It was so tall, it could have looked a giraffe in the eye and had the ability to walk on all fours, using its gigantic folded wings as front limbs!
Scientists have debated how a creature as large as a private plane, could have ever flown. It was believed that they had hollow, lightweight bones and powerful forelimbs which helped them to catapult themselves into the air. Once airborne, they would use their large wings to soar, using air thermals to keep them aloft.
Spinosaurus lived around 100 to 92 million years ago during the Cretaceous period and was discovered in Egypt.
Reaching a huge length of almost 50 feet, spinosaurus joined Land of the Living Dinosaurs in 2016. It is the largest and longest predatory dinosaur in the exhibit, staying true to scientists’ belief that spinosaurus was the largest predator to ever roam the Earth!
With large cone shaped teeth and a long crocodilian shaped jaw, these fearsome predators specialised in hunting giant fish and were the first dinosaurs known to swim.
299-251 MILLION YEARS AGO
The first area you will come to is a time just before the dinosaurs appeared. The three animals in the Permian period are not actually dinosaurs – they are mammal-like reptiles (synapsids). Gorgonops – one of the largest carnivores of the period – are instantly recognisable by their oversize canine teeth, used to pierce the tough hides of their prey!
This period also saw a world with giant insects including cockroaches and dragonflies, as well as the transformation of ancient rainforests into arid deserts and the arrival of the ancestors of reptiles & mammals.
The Permian period ended with the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history and some of the planet’s ecosystems took 30 million years to recover.
251-199.6 MILLION YEARS AGO
Next is the beginning of the Mesozoic era where dinosaurs, mammals and flying reptiles first appear.
Eoraptor is widely regarded as the first ‘true’ dinosaur. They are known to have had both carnivorous and herbivorous teeth, so could have been a very adaptable omnivore. This period also saw the arrival of the first flying vertebrates – the pterosaurs! They had wings formed from a membrane of skin and muscle.
The end of the triassic was marked with another major mass extinction – one which allowed the dinosaurs to become dominant.
199.6-145.5MILLION YEARS AGO
Widely known as the ‘Age of Reptiles’ the Jurassic period saw a change in climate due to continental shifts that created new coastlines and lush rainforests.
The dinosaurs dominated these lands, and you will see species such as the herbivorous stegosaurus, with its distinctive back plates and tail spikes, the mamenchisaurus with the longest neck compared to body of any dinosaur and carnivores including allosaurus.