History and species
Numerous species have been referred to this genus over time, and only those more widely connected with the genus are included here.
The type species, L. compressirostris, is based on NHMUK 39410, a partial upper jaw from the Turonian-age Upper Cretaceous Upper Chalk near Kent. Richard Owen named in 1851 as a species of Pterodactylus'; it was transferred to Ornithocheirus in 1870 by Harry Govier Seeley, before becoming the type species of Lonchodectes in Reginald Walter Hooley's 1914 review of Ornithocheirus. Confusingly, this species was also long regarded, incorrectly, as the type species of Ornithocheirus.
Formerly assigned to Lonchodectes
Hooley added two other species at this time, both of which had also been originally referred to Pterodactylus, then to Ornithocheirus: L. giganteus, a Cenomanian-age jaw fragment; and L. daviesii, another jaw fragment, from an Albian-age formation.
"Pterodactylus" sagittirostris, based on NHMUK R.1823, a lower jaw fragment from the ?Valanginian-Hauterivian-age Lower Cretaceous Hastings Beds of East Sussex, "Ornithocheirus" platystomus "Ornithocheirus" machaerorhynchus, and "O." microdon were assigned to Lonchodectes in a 2001 review by David Unwin of Cambridge Greensand pterosaurs. Two additional species based on jaw fragments, both from the Albian-age Cambridge Greensand, were added by 2003: L. machaerorhynchus and L. microdon, joining L. compressirostris, L. giganteus, L. platystomus, and L. sagittirostris in his listing of valid species. However, L. giganteus, L. machaerorhynchus, and L. microdon have since been assigned to a new genus, Lonchodraco, while L. sagittirostris has been renamed Serradraco.
In Peter Wellnhofer's 1991 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs the other major recent synopsis of pterosaurs, written before Unwin's work, the species are included with Ornithocheirus (because of L. compressirostris being thought to be the type species), and are in fact the main fossils illustrated to represent the genus. Unwin placed them in their own family, Lonchodectidae, which he grouped with the ctenochasmatoids in 2003, and with the azhdarchoids, including the tapejarids and azhdarchids, in 2006.
Below is a cladogram showing the phylogenetic placement of this genus within Pteranodontia from Andres and Myers (2013).
Lonchodectes had long jaws with many short teeth, and the jaws were compressed vertically, like "a pair of sugar tongs with teeth". Related species (including several taxa formerly included within the genus) had crests on their lower jaws, so the same probably also applied to L. compressirostris.
With limb proportions akin to those of azhdarchids, Lonchodectes might have lived similarly. It had a wingspan estimated to have been around 2 m (6.6 ft).