Was The Infamous Pterodactyl A Dinosaur?

Joan Agie
Feb 13, 2024 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Oct 12, 2021
Edited by Christina Harrison
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
A pterosaur depicted in flight mode.
?
Age: 3-18
Read time: 3.8 Min



The pterodactyl, known for its iconic place in the fossil record, has often been mistaken as a dinosaur, yet it belongs to the distinct clade of flying reptiles known as pterosaurs. Unlike terrestrial dinosaurs, these winged creatures ruled the aerial realms of the natural history of planet Earth millions of years ago. The term 'pterosaur' translates to 'winged lizard', which encompasses both basal pterosaurs and more derived species of these animals. Modern perceptions of pterosaurs, particularly the pterodactyl, have been shaped by significant pterosaur discoveries that date back to the late 18th century, leading scientists to compare their flight mechanisms and anatomy to that of modern birds and modern lizards, revealing a unique evolutionary path quite distinct from other dinosaurs.

Pterodactyl Interesting Facts

How do you pronounce 'pterosaur'?

'Pterosaur' is pronounced as 'TERR-uh-sawr'.

What type of dinosaur was a pterodactyl?

The pterodactyl was not a dinosaur but a type of pterosaur, which was a group of flying reptiles closely related to dinosaurs.

In which geological period did the pterodactyl roam the Earth?

Pterodactyls lived during the Late Jurassic Period (163.5-145 million years ago) and into the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago) of the Mesozoic Era.

When did the pterodactyl become extinct?

Pterodactyls, along with other pterosaurs and non-avian dinosaurs, became extinct about 66 million years ago during the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event.

Where did pterodactyls live?

Pterodactyls were widespread, with fossil evidence found across Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia.

What was the pterodactyl's habitat?

Pterodactyls frequented a variety of habitats including coastal areas, where they could prey on fish and other small animals.

Who did the pterodactyl live with?

Pterodactyls may have lived and hunted in groups, similar to some species of modern birds, although solitary behavior cannot be ruled out.

How long did a pterodactyl live?

Pterodactyl lifespans remain uncertain, yet bone growth rings suggest they lived several years; smaller species perhaps 7-10 years, and larger ones potentially up to 100 years. Further research is needed for precise estimates.

How did they reproduce?

Pterodactyls laid eggs, much like modern birds and reptiles, as evidenced by fossilized eggs and nests.

Pterodactyl Fun Facts

What did a Pterodactyl look like?

Pterodactyls were winged reptiles with elongated finger bones that supported their wing membranes. They had long beaks and many species, including the pterodactyl, had a distinctive cranial crest.

How many bones did a Pterodactyl have?

The exact number of bones in a pterodactyl is not precisely known, but they had a lightweight skeletal structure optimized for flight, with hollow bones similar to modern birds.

How did they communicate?

Evidence of pterosaur communication is indirect, but it is speculated that visual and auditory signals played a role, with crests and wings possibly used for display and vocalizations similar to those of birds and reptiles.

How big was a Pterodactyl?

Size varied greatly among pterodactyls, with some small pterosaurs having wingspans of just a few feet, while others had an estimated adult wingspan of up to 39 ft (12 m).

How fast could a Pterodactyl move?

The flight speed of pterodactyls varied by species but is estimated to be quite swift, comparable to many modern birds of similar size. Studies indicate that pterosaurs' average flight speed was about 35.7 mph (57.45 kph).

How much did a Pterodactyl weigh?

Weight varied with size, from less than 1 lb (0.45 kg) in small species up to 550 lb (250 kg) in the largest pterosaurs.

What were the male and female names of the species?

There is no specific terminology for male and female pterodactyls, as they are generally referred to by their genus and species names.

What would you call a baby Pterodactyl?

Fossil evidence of juvenile pterosaurs suggests they may have been precocial, capable of flight soon after hatching. Baby pterodactyls, able to fly soon after birth, are known as 'flaplings'.

How aggressive were they?

Aggression levels in pterodactyls are not well-known, but they likely varied between species and according to ecological niche and competition.

Did you know...

The wings of pterosaurs were made up of a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues that stretched from the hind limbs to the elongated fourth finger of their front limbs. Their wing bones were robust and capable of supporting the flight of these large animals.

Most pterosaur skulls were often adorned with elaborate crests that could have been used for display, thermoregulation, or other purposes.

The pterodactyls share their era with non-avian dinosaurs, and their fossil skeletons offer a glimpse into the diversity of prehistoric life during the Mesozoic Era.

Certain species of terrestrial pterosaurs were likely specialized ground hunters, spending less time in flight.


The conclusion of this journey into the wondrous world of the pterodactyl reveals this creature as a marvel of evolution, perfectly adapted to soaring the prehistoric skies. Their exceptional characteristics not only distinguish them from dinosaurs but also underscore the biological diversity of the Mesozoic era's fauna. Despite their extinction millions of years ago, the legacy of these fantastical flying reptiles endures, continuing to fascinate and inspire with each new fossil discovery that brings humans closer to understanding the intricacies of natural history.

Pterodactyl Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Small animals, fish

what Type of Animal were they?

Meat

Average Litter Size?

Two

What Did They Look Like?

Winged reptiles with sharp beaks, often with a crest on their skull

How Much Did They Weigh?

Up to 550 lb (250 kg)

Skin Type

Thin, membranous, part of their wings

How Long Were They?

10 in (25 cm) wingspan for small species, 33-39 ft (10-12 m) for large species

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Reptilia

Genus

Pterodactylus

Family

Pteranodontidae

Scientific Name

Pterodactylus antiquus

What Were Their Main Threats?

Climate change and other carnivorous dinosaurs

What Habitat Did They Live In?

Coastal areas, water bodies, trees, caves

Where Did They Live?

Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia
We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

Sources

www.extinctanimals.orgkids.britannica.comscienceviews.comen.wikipedia.orgen.wikipedia.orgucmp.berkeley.eduen.wikipedia.orgwww.merriam-webster.comwww.scientificamerican.comwww.dinosaur.orgen.wikipedia.orgwww.nbcnews.comwww.livescience.comwww.nationalgeographic.comwww.amnh.orgwww.sciencealert.com

See All

Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

Read full bio >
Read the DisclaimerFact Correction