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Pteranodon is an extinct genus of pterosaurs that lived around 85-75 million years ago. Pteranodon species existed for over four million years. Even though Pteranodon is frequently associated with dinosaurs, it was a flying reptile. It is often mistaken as Pterodactyl.


Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Order Pterosauria
Suborder Pterodactyloidea
Family Pteranodontidae
Subfamily Pteranodontinae
Genus Pteranodon
Species Pteranodon longiceps (Type Species)
Pteranodon sternbergi

Quick Fact Sheet

Pronunciation Teh-RAN-uh-DON
Name Meaning Winged and Toothless
Geological Time Period Late Coniacian to early Campanian stages, Cretaceous period
Size Length – 1.5 to 2 ft (from tip of the beak to tail)
Height – 5 to 6 ft (tall at the hips)
Wingspan 25 to 33 ft wide
Weight 50 to 60 lbs
Range/Location North America and Europe
Habitat Coastal Environment
Diet Carnivore or Piscivore
Birth Type (Reproduction) Eggs
Locomotion Quadrupedal (arguably bipedal)

Physical Description

Pteranodon had a giant pelican like appearance. Their wingspan was larger than any known bird species. One of its distinctive features was its cranial crest projecting upward and then turning backward from the skull. It is believed that the long, light-weight, bony crest helped in balancing their beak and jaws. Some researchers stated that it was probably something to do with sexual dimorphism or probably used in attracting mates during the breeding season. In fact, it has also been said that they worked as a stabilizer or rudder while flying. They had large brains and good eyesight. Pteranodon had no teeth on their beaks. Their upper beak, which was longer than the lower one, was curved upward. It had strong hind legs. Their wings were covered with a leatherlike tissue layer which stretched from the top of its legs to its fourth fingers. It had hollow bones and it also possessed a short tail. Their body was probably covered with fur.

History and Discovery

Pteranodon was the very first known pterosaur outside Europe. First fossil remains were found in the Late Cretaceous Smoky Hill Chalk deposits of Kansas, United States, by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1870. This genus is known from extremely well-represented fossil samples. As of now, more than 1000 skeletal remains have been unearthed. The fossil materials represent both male and female of various age groups and species. Fragmentary fossils assigned to this genus have also been found in Skåne, Sweden.

Adaptation and Behavior

Researchers believe that they were primarily fish eater. The probably scooped out fish from the water by dipping their beaks into the water while in low flight and swallowed them whole. They also fed on mollusks, crabs and insects; and scavenged on the carcasses of dead animals. It is believed that they primarily dwelt on offshore rookeries, safe from land predators. Pteranodon was modern-day albatross like flyer. But, unlike the albatross, it occasionally required rapid burst of flapping. In fact, studies have shown that Pteranodon were capable of flapping flight to an extent, rejecting the initial suggestions that they could just glide. Like other pterosaurs species, they also took off from a quadrupedal position getting all of the energy generated by the forelimbs.

Interesting Facts

  • Pteranodon longiceps probably shared their territory giant-crested pterosaur Nyctosaurus.
  • Pteranodon has features in documentary films, online games and toy-lines.

List of species and synonyms

Pterodactylus occidentalis Reclassified as Pteranodon occidentalis
Pterodactylus ingens Reclassified as Pteranodon ingens
Pterodactylus velox Nomen dubium
Ornithochirus umbrosus Nomen dubium
Ornithochirus harpyia Nomen dubium
Pterodactylus umbrosus Reclassification of Ornithochirus umbrosus
Pteranodon longiceps Valid
Pteranodon ingens Nomen dubium
Pteranodon occidentalis Nomen dubium
Pteranodon velox Nomen dubium
Pteranodon gracilis Reclassified as Nyctosaurus gracilis
Pteranodon comptus Nomen dubium
Pteranodon nanus Reclassified as Nyctosaurus nanus
Ornithocheirus umbrosus Reclassified as Pteranodon umbrosus
Ornithocheirus harpyia Reclassified as Pteranodon harpyia
Pteranodon umbrosus Nomen dubium
Ornithostoma ingens Synonym of Pteranodon ingens
Ornithostoma umbrosum Synonym of Pteranodon umbrosus
Pteranodon oregonensis Reclassified as Bennettazhia oregonensis
Pteranodon sternbergi Valid
Pteranodon marshi Synonym of Pteranodon longiceps
Pteranodon bonneri Reclassified as Nyctosaurus bonneri
Pteranodon walkeri Synonym of Pteranodon longiceps
Pteranodon (Occidentalia) eatoni Synonym of Pteranodon sternbergi
Pteranodon eatoni Synonym of Pteranodon sternbergi
Pteranodon (Longicepia) longicps [sic] Synonym of Pteranodon longiceps
Pteranodon (Longicepia) marshi Synonym of Pteranodon longiceps
Pteranodon (Sternbergia) sternbergi Reclassified as Pteranodon (Geosternbergia) sternbergi
Pteranodon (Sternbergia) walkeri Reclassified as Pteranodon (Geosternbergia) walkeri
Pteranodon (Pteranodon) marshi Synonym of Pteranodon longiceps
Pteranodon (Occidentalia) occidentalis Synonym of Pteranodon occidentalis
Pteranodon (Longicepia) ingens Synonym of Pteranodon ingens
Pteranodon (Pteranodon) ingens Synonym of Pteranodon ingens
Pteranodon (Geosternbergia) walkeri Synonym of Pteranodon longiceps
Pteranodon (Geosternbergia) sternbergi Synonym of Pteranodon sternbergi
Pteranodon orientalis Reclassified as Bogolubovia orientalis
Geosternbergia walkeri Synonym of Pteranodon sternbergi
Geosternbergia sternbergi Synonym of Pteranodon sternbergi

Published on January 7th 2016 by under Reptiles.
Article was last reviewed on 16th September 2019.

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