While not a dinosaur and often generalized as a “pterodactyl,” Pterodactylus is perhaps one of the most well known prehistoric creatures. Discovered in 1784 Bavaria, Germany, the limited scientific understanding of prehistoric animals at the time meant this new discovery defied all classification. We now know it to be a small pterosaur, a winged reptile capable of powered flight from the late Jurassic period. There are many subspecies of Pterodactylus, but they all have the common traits of a small head crest, a very narrow and straight pointed beak with needle-like teeth, minuscule tail, and wingspans of around 3 feet. They are known to have been active exclusively during the day from study of their fossilized scleral eye rings, probably to avoid competition with another flying fisherman: Rhamphorhynchus, who is known to be active exclusively during the night. It’s favorite meals came from snatching small fish and animals from the plentiful Jurassic streams and woods with graceful aerobatics.
- Pterodactylus had a ring of pycnofibres (primitive intermediate between fur and feathers) around its neck that acted as a splash guard. This way it could skim the water for fish and stay warm and dry while doing it!
- Pterodactylus was the first discovered pterosaur, and it was discovered almost 100 years before the first dinosaur: Megalosaurus
- It’s not well known what dinosaurs lived alongside Pterodactylus, but it is from the same time and place as another famous flyer: Archaeopteryx. The Solnhofen limestone beds are scientifically famous for their incredible fossils of Jurassic pterosaurs, marine life, and ancient plants seemingly frozen in time on the slabs of rock.
- Pterodactylus is often confused and associated with Pteranodon, but they in fact were unrelated and were separated by about 70 million years.
- It’s name appropriately means “Winged Finger.”
Would you like to see Pterodactylus in Jurassic World: Alive?
How do you think it would be in game?
Dinosaurs we would Like #4 - Ceratosaurus