Fun Harpactognathus Facts For Kids

Christian Mba
Oct 20, 2022 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Sep 20, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Check out some mind-blowing Harpactognathus facts!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.6 Min

Harpactognathus, meaning 'seizing or grasping jaw', can be considered one of the most interesting flying dinosaurs or pterosaurs. A partial skull belonging to this rhamphorhynchid pterosaur was discovered in the Morrison Formation located in Wyoming, USA, and it was found that it lived almost 157.3-152.1 million years ago, making it the oldest pterosaur found in the Morrison Formation.

This genus consists of a single species, Harpactognathus gentryii.

It was probably one of the largest long-tailed pterosaurs to have lived on Earth.

The most unique feature was the large bony crest on its head that extended till the tip of its jaw. The recovered Harpactognathus skull also consisted of the snout, which was found to be upturned and become thinner at the tip.

Though it was earlier assumed that all flying dinosaurs, including Harpactognathus, preyed upon fish that existed back then, recent studies have shown that they could have very well been carnivores or insectivores, and fed on vertebrates or insects that lived in terrestrial habitats.

The structure of the teeth of this pterosaur indicated that they were not only used to catch and hold prey between its jaws but also to eat plant matter.

Keep reading to find out more fun and interesting facts about this brilliant pterosaur!

If you want to learn about other dinosaurs, make sure to check out our Ludodactylus and Metriorhynchus fun facts pages.

Harpactognathus Interesting Facts

How do you pronounce 'Harpactognathus'?

Harpactognathus can be phonetically pronounced as 'Har-pac-tog-na-fus'.

What type of dinosaur was a Harpactognathus?

This animal was a type of flying dinosaur or a pterosaur belonging to the family Ramphorhynchidae. It is a rhamphorhynchid pterosaur, which means that it is one of the more primitive flying reptiles of history.

Rhamphorhynchid pterosaurs are characterized by their long tails, which are usually not a feature associated with their descendants.

Just like most pterosaurs, it had pycnofibers on its body, which are hair-like filaments that are thought to look and feel like fur. This pterosaur resembled Scaphognathus, which came to existence about five million years after Harpactognathus, except that the latter has a slightly larger wingspan and skull size.

In which geological period did the Harpactognathus roam the earth?

These pterosaurs lived on Earth during the Kimmeridgian age of the Late Jurassic period. They would have existed almost 157.3-152.1 million years ago.

When did the Harpactognathus become extinct?

Almost all rhamphorhynchid pterosaurs, including the Harpactognathus, are said to have gone extinct by the end of the Late Jurassic period.

Where did a Harpactognathus live?

The few specimens of this flying dinosaur that have been found, were all discovered in what is now the U.S. state of Wyoming.

What was a Harpactognathus' habitat?

Unlike many that are found in marine habitats, this rhamphorhynchid pterosaur was found in what would have been a terrestrial environment. This lines up with the theory that most pterosaurs were terrestrial predators and would have hunted small vertebrates and dinosaurs.

Who did a Harpactognathus live with?

Though it is not known if this flying dinosaur was a social or gregarious animal, other dinosaurs that also existed during the Late or Upper Jurassic were sauropods such as Brontosaurus and Diplodocus. Carnivorous theropods like Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus were also found in the Morrison Formation and were found to exist in the same time period as Harpactognathus.

How long did a Harpactognathus live?

The lifespan of a Harpactognathus is unknown due to a lack of research and evidence.

How did they reproduce?

These pterosaurs produced young ones by laying eggs. There has been evidence that some pterosaurs buried their eggs below the earth's surface.

It has been suggested that these pterosaurs showed sexual dimorphism in the form of a bony head crest, the use of which could have been to impress members of the opposite sex.

Harpactognathus Fun Facts

What did a Harpactognathus look like?

Harpactognathus was one of the largest rhamphorhynchid pterosaurs that ever lived on Earth. The partial skull that was recovered consisted of a snout and showed that it had a bony crest that extended till the tip of its jaws.

Its snout was found to be thinner at the tip than at the base, and slightly upturned. The skull was larger than the skulls of pterosaurs that came later, at a length of about 11–12 in (28–30 cm).

It had a long tail that is said to have had a vane at the end of it. Its body would have been covered in pycnofibers, which are hair-like filaments that covered the bodies of most flying dinosaurs.

Harpactognathus had a large bony crest that extended till the tip of its snout.
*Please note that this is an image of a Scaphognathus, a pterosaur similar to the Harpactognathus. If you have an image of a Harpactognathus, please let us know at

How many bones did a Harpactognathus have?

The number of bones that a Harpactognathus would have had is not yet known as very few specimens of this pterosaur have been collected so far.

How did they communicate?

There is no evidence showing how or whether these pterosaurs could communicate with each other, though it would not be unusual for these creatures to have had some form of a bird call.

How big was a Harpactognathus?

Although its body length cannot be estimated due to the lack of a complete skeleton, their wingspan has been thought to be quite big for a rhamphorhynchid that lived during the Upper Jurassic period, at a length of 98 in (2.5 m).

However, the largest of all pterosaurs, the Arambourgiania, had a wingspan that was six times more than that.

How fast could a Harpactognathus move?

Though the speed of a Harpactognathus is not known, some pterosaurs could have flown at an estimated speed of 80 mph (128 kph)!

How much did a Harpactognathus weigh?

The weight of this pterosaur is not known due to the lack of a complete skeleton being found.

What were the male and female names of the species?

The pterosaurs of this genus did not have specific male or female names.

What would you call a baby Harpactognathus?

Baby pterosaurs of this genus could have been called hatchlings or flaplings. Some fossils have been found of very young pterosaurs, and they showed that most of them were very well-developed, and they would have needed parental care and protection for only a very short period of time.

This was because their wings grew rapidly and thus, they would have been able to leave their nests soon after emerging from their eggs.

What did they eat?

The diet of these flying dinosaurs has been a subject of confusion. Initially assumed to be fish-eaters, it has been recently found that they could have been one of the major terrestrial predators of small dinosaurs or insects. However, the structure of the teeth of Harpactognathus showed that they could have fed on some plant matter as well.

How aggressive were they?

Although larger and more recent pterosaurs have been suspected of being highly aggressive, and even capable of attacking and consuming a human being if it could, a Harpactognathus would not have been as dangerous because it would have gone for prey of a smaller size.

Did you know...

Flying dinosaurs are often referred to as pterodactyls in pop culture. However, that term is not accurate at all and only applies to the few pterosaurs belonging to the order Pterodactyloidea. The correct term to be used is pterosaurs.

Naming the Harpactognathus

A partial skull of this pterosaur was discovered in 1996 by a volunteer named Joe Gentry. It was only in 2003 that it was named by Kenneth Carpenter, David A. Unwin, Karen Cloward, Clifford Miles, and Clark Miles.

The name, Harpactognathus, meaning 'seizing or grasping jaw' in Greek, was given because of seemingly strong jaws, and teeth that were capable of tightly holding prey between them. The name of its type species, H. gentryii, honors Joe Gentry for discovering the fossils.

Where are Harpactognathus fossils found?

A few specimens of Harpactognathus have been found near the Bone Cabin Quarry in the Morrison Formation. This Formation is situated in Albany County of Wyoming, USA.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly dinosaur facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Yinlong facts and Heterodontosaurus facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Harpactognathus coloring pages.

Main image by Tim Evanson and second image by Dmitry Bogdanov.

*Please note that this is an image of a Scaphognathus, a pterosaur similar to the Harpactognathus. If you have an image of a Harpactognathus, please let us know at

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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