Paleo artist Michael Skrepnick visualizes Nemicolopterus crypticus in this illustrationbased on the nearly complete skeleton of a toothless pterosaur found in 2007 in the western part of China’s Liaoning Province
This mini-pterodactyl was so small that you could hold it in your hand. And unlike its fish-eating relatives that lived near the water’s edge, Nemicolopterus had curved digits on its feet that would have helped it grasp tree branches. 120 million years ago this inland environment was covered with ginkgo conifers and other trees. The pterosaur’s small size would also have helped it bound across the tree canopy, grabbing insects.
Its position in the evolutionary tree of pterosaurs suggests that a lineage of Nemicolopterus-like creatures led to all of the giant pterosaurs, including Quetzalcoatlus, which boasted a wingspan of more than 30 feet (10 meters).