All About Pterodactylus
What is a Pterodactylus??
Pterodactylus is a genus of pterosaurs, whose members are popularly known as pterodactyls. It was the first to be named and identified as a flying reptile.
What did the Pterodactylus look like??
Pterodactylus is known from over 27 fossil specimens, and though most of those are juveniles, many preserve complete skeletons.The discovery of several specimens with well-preserved soft tissue traces has allowed scientists to faithfully reconstruct the life appearance of Pterodactylus.
The skulls of adult Pterodactylus were long and narrow with about 90 large, conical teeth. The teeth extended back from the tips of both jaws, and became smaller farther away from the jaw tips. The teeth extended farther back into the jaw than in close relatives, as some were present below the front of the nasoantorbital fenestra, the largest opening in the skull. Unlike related species, the skull and jaws were straight, not curved upwards.A small, hooked beak was present in the very tips of the jaws, with both upper and lower hook no larger than the teeth that surrounded them. The neck was long, and covered in long, bristle-like pycnofibres. A throat pouch extended from about the middle of the lower jaw to the upper part of the neck.
Pterodactylus, like related pterosaurs, had a crest on its skull composed mainly of soft tissues. In adult Pterodactylus, this crest extended between the back edge of the largest opening in the skull and the back of the skull. The back of the crest extended upward into a backward-curving cone-shaped structure. The crest was composed mainly of long, hardened fibres, and covered in scales. In at least one specimen, the crest had a short bony base. Solid crests have only been found on large, fully adult specimens of Pterodactylus, indicating that this was a display structure that became larger and more well developed as individuals reached maturity.
The wings were long, and the wing membranes appear to have lacked the furry covering of pycnofibres present in some other pterosaurs. The wing membrane extended between the fingers and toes as webbing, and a uropatagium (secondary membrane between the feet and tail) was present, as well as a propatagium (membrane between the wrist and shoulder).Both the finger and toe claws were covered in keratin sheaths that extended and curved into sharp hooks well beyond their bony cores.
Was the Pterodactylus Large??
No. The Pterodactylus was a relatively small pterosaur, with an estimated adult wingspan of about 5 feet. They were once thought to be smaller. However, these smaller specimens have been shown to represent juveniles of Pterodactylus, as well as its contemporary relatives. The picture to the left shows the size of the sub-adult holotype (blue) and adult (green) specimens in both flying and standing postures, compared with a human.