Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Order Pterosauria
Suborder Rhamphorhynchoidea
Family Rhamphorhynchidae
Subfamily Rhamphorhynchinae
Genus Rhamphorhynchus
1st Species Rhamphorhynchus muensteri
2nd Species Rhamphorhynchus etchesi
Other attributes
Time Range 150.8-148.5 mya
Location Germany, United Kingdom
Name Meaning Beak snout
Physical Dimensions 1.8 meter wingspan for R.muensteri; 1.7 meter wingspan for R.etchesi
Dietary Classification Carnivore
Rhamphorhynchus is a rhamphorhynchid pterosaurian reptile from the Late Jurassic of Germany and the United Kingdom. It was named in 1846 by Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer. It was one of the first pterosaurs known to science (alongside Pterodactylus); in fact, it was thought to be a species of Pterodactylus before finally being described as its own genus.


While still retaining the appearance of a reptilian bird, Rhamphorhynchus looked slightly more draconic. It had 4 legs (two of which served as wings), 4 fingers on each hand (one of which was elongated and supported the wing membrane), a small body, a long tail with a triangular vane on its end, a moderately long neck, and a small head with a large, curved beak covered with sharp, interlocking teeth. Most of its body (excluding its beak and wings) would have been covered in a fur-like covering called pycnofibers.


Rhamphorhynchus was a predator, preying on fish and cephalopods as an adult, and subsisting on arthropods as a juvenile. Its teeth were large and sharp, and were used to get a hold of slippery prey.


Rhamphorhynchus's early life stages were unique compared to most other pterosaurs; juveniles, neither altricial (requiring care from parents) nor able to fly the moment they hatched, grew fast until they reached a size half of that of adults (and finally became able to fly), in which they started to grow at a much slower rate. It has long been suspected that Rhamphorhynchus fed by projecting its lower jaw into the water and catching any fish that swam into it; however, recent studies have shown that this would cause the pterosaur to experience so much drag that it would fall face-first into the water, and that it probably floated on the water and caught any nearby fish with its toothy beak instead. As well as this, a close look at its ear structure tells us that it held its head at a horizontal position when moving about; this contrasts to later pterosaurs such as Tropeognathus and Pteranodon, which held their heads at a oblique position. A comparison of its sclerotic rings to those of modern reptiles and birds indicates that it was nocturnal; this lifestyle benefitted the animal, as it would avoid competition with Pterodactylus, a fellow fish-eating pterosaur that preferred to hunt during the day.

In popular cultureEdit

Rhamphorhynchus was first introduced to the public in the Rite of Spring segment of the 1940 Disney musical movie, Fantasia. Since then, it has become one of the most popular pterosaurs (after Pteranodon), being featured in major pieces of media such as One Million Years B.C, The Land that Time Forgot, and Walking with Dinosaurs; with the very latter being the exception, all of these pieces of media show it as a giant, vicious, eagle-like predator, flying at helpless cavemen and snatching them with its talons. Among this, its long, vaned tail is commonly seen as another trait that makes it inherently devilish, and so, is added to every pterosaur; even short-tailed pterosaurs such as Pteranodon get this long tail.

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