Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Order Pterosauria
Suborder Pterodactyloidea
Family Pterodactylidae
Genus Pterodactylus
1st Species Pterodactylus antiquus
Other attributes
Time Range 150.8-148.5 mya
Location Germany
Name Meaning Wing finger
Physical Dimensions 1.1 meter wingspan
Dietary Classification Carnivore

Pterodactylus is a pterodactylid pterosaurian reptile from the Late Jurassic of Germany. It was named in 1809 by Georges Cuvier. It was the first pterosaur known to science, and, like any early-known Mesozoic animal, it was a wastebasket taxon; as well as this, it was confused for being a shrew-like flying mammal or a strange finned amphibian, right before people discovered that it was a reptile.


Pterodactylus resembled a reptilian bird; it had 4 legs (2 of which served as wings), 4 fingers on each hand (one of which was elongated and supported the wing membrane), a small body, a short tail, a moderately long neck, a small head with a long, toothy beak. As well as this, it had a large crest atop its head and a large throat pouch extending from the middle of its jaw to the upper part of its neck. Most of its body (excluding its beak, crest, and wings) would have been covered in a fur-like covering called pycnofibers.


Pterodactylus was a predator, preying on fish and crustaceans as an adult, and subsisting on insects and lizards as a juvenile. Its teeth were small yet sharp, and were used to get a hold of struggling prey.


The way how Pterodactylus should be constructed was under debate for a long time, with people reconstructing it as an aquatic animal, a flying, bat-like mammal, and a winged reptile; today, the latter prevails as the most accepted reconstruction. Like modern reptiles today, Pterodactylus grew at a slow and steady rate; adults could be distinguished from juveniles by the number of teeth on their beak (15 for juveniles, 90 for adults), the robusticity of their teeth (adults have narrower teeth than juveniles), and the presence of short, rounded crest atop the back of their skulls (which juveniles lacked). In terms of the very latter, this crest was most likely used for display; it also might have been more pronounced in males, possibly allowing for use in attracting mates. A comparison of its sclerotic rings to those of modern reptiles and birds indicates that it was diurnal; this lifestyle benefitted the animal, as it would avoid competition with Rhamphorhynchus, a fellow fish-eating pterosaur that preferred to hunt during the night.

In popular cultureEdit

Pterodactylus was one of the 1st Mesozoic animals discovered, so it was featured in Crystal Palace Park (a pleasure ground in London) as a large, scaly, long-necked reptile with broad wings, alongside Iguanodon (depicted as a horned dragon), Megalosaurus (also depicted as a dragon), Plesiosaurus, Ichthyosaurus, and Mosasaurus (depicted as a giant, iguana-like squamate). During the time the park was built, it was referred to as the "Ptero-Dactyle"; soon, that word evolved into the popular eponym "pterodactyl", a name that is informally used for all pterosaurs (similar to the usage of the word "bug" to describe all insects).

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.