By: Staff

Updated on: 28/03/2022

Pterodactyls, also referred to as Pterodactylus, is an extinct genus of pterosaurs that lived around 150 to 147 million years ago. The genus is currently known from a single species Pterodactylus antiquus. It is also the very first known pterosaur. Pterodactyls is often mistakenly confused with Pteranodon.

Scientific Classification

Species:Pterodactylus antiquus (Type Species)

Quick Facts

Name Meaning:Winged finger
Geological Time Period:Early Tithonian, Late Jurassic Period
Size:2.5 to 3.1 ft. wide wingspan
Weight:2 to 10 pounds
Skull length:2 to 2.5 inches long
Range/Location:Europe (England, France, Germany) and Africa (Tanzania)
Habitat:Coastal environment, or near large water-bodies.
Birth Type (Reproduction):Eggs

History and Discovery


Pterodactyls is known from more than thirty fossil samples. Most of the skeleton remains belong to the juveniles. Smaller specimens, earlier thought as different species, are now believed to be juveniles of Pterodactyls antiquus.

Pterodactyls Images

The first fossil remains were found in the Solnhofen limestone of Bavaria in Germany. It was described in 1784, by Italian scientist Cosimo Alessandro Collini. The exact year of the specimen’s discovery is not known, but it is believed to be the earliest documented pterosaur discovery.

Pterodactyls Skeleton

At first, it was first thought to be an aquatic creature. In fact, as late as 1830, a lot of the scientists used to believe that pterosaurs were aquatic creatures.

Physical Characteristics

Pterodactyls Fossil
Pterodactyls Size

Pterodactyls was a lightly built flying reptile with a long skull. They had a short, rounded crest on the back of their skull. Some paleontologists believe that their crest was indicative of sexual dimorphism or age. Their brain was relatively large and they probably had good eyesight. It possessed a long, curved neck; and a long, straight and pointed jaw with small, sharp teeth. Tissue impressions in few specimens are significative of the presence of both a throat pouch and pycnofibres on the neck. Like all pterosaurs, Pterodactyls had light weighed, thin wings that took shape by a leather-like tissue layer stretched from the top of the legs to the elongated fourth finger. They also had a short tail, and its bones were hollow.


Pterodactyls Photos

The name Pterodactyls has come from Greek words “pteron” meaning ‘wing’ and “daktulos” meaning ‘finger’. The name is thus because of its fourth fingers placed in its wing ridges.

Adaptation and Behavior

Pterodactyls Images

It is believed that fish might have been on the top of their diet, and their long and pointed beak was quite helpful in catching its prey. Their feeding strategies varied as their dentition changed with age. So, this helped in reducing competition between two age groups. Researchers believe that they had a semi-upright stance. They could flap their wings and fly long distances. Comparisons between Pterodactylus antiquus’ scleral rings with those of the modern-day reptiles and birds suggest that they were probably diurnal.

Interesting Facts

Pterodactyls Flying
Pterodactyls Bones
  • In 1809, the genus was originally named “Petro-Dactyle” by Cuvier. And, the typographical error was later corrected to “Ptéro-Dactyle”.
  • A small fraction of paleontologists believe that their stance was upright and they must be added in the clade of the dinosaurs.
  • Pterodactyls’ growth pattern, similar to modern-day birds and crocodiles, suggests that they were cold-blooded animal.
  • The genus has been depicted in movies (e.g. 2005 film Pterodactyl), online games, toy-lines, cartoons and documentary films.

List of Species and Synonyms

Pterodactylus antiquusValid, Type Species
Ornithocephalus antiquusSynonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Ornithocephalus brevirostrisSynonym of Ctenochasma elegans
Ptenodracon brevirostrisSynonym of Ctenochasma elegans
Pterodactylus brevirostrisSynonym of Ctenochasma elegans
Pterodactylus longirostrisSynonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Macrotrachelus longirostrisSynonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Ornithocephalus longirostrisSynonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Pterodactylus “suevicus”Synonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Pterodactylus crocodilocephaloidesSynonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Pterodactylus spectabilisSynonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Pterodactylus grandisNomen dubium, possible synonym of Rhamphorhynchus muensteri
Pterodactylus kochiSynonym of Pterodactylus antiquus
Ornithocephalus kochiSynonym of Pterodactylus kochi
Diopecephalus kochiSynonym of Pterodactylus kochi
Pterodactylus meyeriSynonym of Pterodactylus kochi
Ornithocephalus meyeriSynonym of Pterodactylus kochi
Pterodactylus grandipelvisNomen dubium
Pterodactylus cerinensisNomen dubium
Pterodactylus suprajurensisNomen dubium
Pterodactylus manseliNomen dubium
Pterodactylus pleydelliNomen dubium
Pterodactylus arningiNomen dubium
Pterodactylus maximusNomen dubium

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