Why are pterodactyls not dinosaurs?

My kids have a favorite show on TV. It’s a highly educational show called “Dinosaur Train,” where a family of dinosaurs, one of whom appears adopted or accidental, rides around on a train visiting a wide variety of other dinosaurs. This has prompted a question from me. You are probably thinking the question is “How did dinosaurs get a train?” But no, the question is, “Where did all the normal dinosaurs go?”

When I was a kid, we had normal dinosaurs. We had brontosauruses, stegosauruses, and tyrannosauruses rex. Or is it tyrannosaurus rexes? But I digress. The main family on “Dinosaur Train” I would call pterodactyls. You know, the flying dinosaurs. But they aren’t pterodactyls, they are pteranodons, which are exactly like pterodactyls, only different.

And they aren’t even dinosaurs. According Wikipedia “The term ‘dinosaur’ is properly restricted to only those reptiles descended from the last common ancestor of the groups Saurischia and Ornithischia, and current scientific consensus is that this group excludes the pterosaurs.”

So pterodactyls aren’t dinosaurs, even though they were large, scale-covered creatures living thousands of years ago, because they didn’t belong to the groups Sarsparilla and Ornithology. Or whatever.

I’m not sure how pterodactyls feel about this. Someone needs to invent time travel, go back in time, and tell them they are hanging out with the wrong crowd. They are never going to be proper dinosaurs until they give up that flying business and join the order Saskatchewan or Orthodontics.

But they have it better than brontosauruses. Those poor brontosauruses don’t even exist anymore. It appears the man discovering the brontosaurus was a little hasty in his declaring a new dinosaur discovered. It ended up being a dinosaur called the apatosaurus, but they didn’t find that out for 90 years, after the damage was already done. What made matters worse is that, on public display, the brontosaurus had the head of a camarasaurus. So brontosauruses never existed. Poor long necks. I feel like someone took away my childhood.

The odd member out of the TV show is a tyrannosaurus rex. Thank goodness they still exist because they totally rocked. Or at least I thought so when I was ten. The ten year old in me keeps hoping the tyrannosaurus eats the pterodactyls in the TV show. Alas, it never happens. But there are thousands more dinosaur species than there were 30 years ago. They are kind of like action figures.

See, when action figures like He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out, they came out with standard features. Once the market was saturated with the standard variety, they came out with different features, like He-Man with battle action or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with beatnik dress (I’m not kidding; there were a lot of variety in those ninja turtles). Soon you couldn’t even buy a normal one.

It makes me wonder if the dinosaur experts wonder if people are getting bored, and so go out and find some new species just to keep people interested. Seems to me they could bring back the brontosaurus for old time’s sake. Come on, Dinosaur Train. Go a little retro.

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