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Pterodactylus

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Pterodactylus (Latin scientific Pterosauria) was a Pterosaur from late Jurassic Europe. A contemporary of Rhamphorhynchus, it was one of the first pterodactyloid pterosaurs in the world, and its' name is often confused with Pteranodon. Pterodactylus lived in the Late Jurassic Period about 150 to 145 million years ago.

Pterodactylus was a small reptile, hardly larger than a modern pigeon or crow.

It still had teeth, but of a more uniform and smaller size than Rhamphorhynchus. Pterodactylus may have had a crest of skin on its head.

Pterodactylus had almost no tail, unlike Rhamphorhynchus, and it held its neck at an angle, not straightforward, as Rhamphorhynchus did. It was more adapted to moving on land as well, though at its smaller size, it was still vulnerable to dinosaurs and other terrestrial inhabitants.

Both Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhynchus are found in Solnhofen deposits of modern Germany, alongside the ancient bird Archaeopteryx and the small dinosaur Compsognathus.

Discovery and history

Pterodactylus is a case study in how confusing it can be to classify 150-million-year-old animals. The first specimen of this pterosaur was discovered way back in 1784, in Germany's Solnhofen fossil beds, decades before before naturalists had any conception of the theory of evolution (which wouldn't be scientifically formulated, by Charles Darwin, until about 70 years later) or, indeed, any grasp of the possibility that animals could go extinct. Fortunately, in retrospect, Pterodactylus was named by one of the first academics to grapple with these issues, the Frenchman Georges Cuvier.

Description

Pterodactylus is known from over 30 fossil specimens, and though most belong to juveniles, many preserve complete skeletons.

Paleobiology

Paleoecology

Classification

Cultural significance

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