When Did Pterodactylus Live?
Pterodactylus (or pterosaurs) lived between 150 million and 70 million years ago. These extraordinary reptiles were able to fly. Some had a wing-span of over 25 feet, making them by far the largest flying animals known to man. Their skulls were often longer than four feet.
Unlike the birds, their descendants, pterodactylus must have been unable to perch upright. They probably hung upside down like bats when sleeping or at rest. Since most remains of pterodactylus have been discovered among marine sediments, it seems likely that these flying dinosaurs found their food in the sea, like sea gulls, by diving for fish.
Pterodactylus, from the Greek, pterodaktulos, meaning “winged finger” is a genus of pterosaurs, whose members are popularly known as pterodactyls. It is currently thought to contain only a single species, Pterodactylus antiquus, the first pterosaur species to be named and identified as a flying reptile.
The fossil remains of this species have been found primarily in the Solnhofen limestone of Bavaria, Germany, dated to the late Jurassic Period (early Tithonian), about 150.8–148.5 million years ago, though more fragmentary remains have been tentatively identified from elsewhere in Europe and in Africa.
It was a carnivore and probably preyed upon fish and other small animals. Like all pterosaurs, Pterodactylus had wings formed by a skin and muscle membrane stretching from its elongated fourth finger to its hind limbs. It was supported internally by collagen fibres and externally by keratinous ridges.
Numerous species have been assigned to Pterodactylus in the years since its discovery. In the first half of the nineteenth century any new pterosaur species would be named Pterodactylus, which thus became a typical “waste-basket taxon”.
Even after clearly different forms had later been given their own generic name, new species would be created from the very productive late Jurassic German sites, often based on only slightly different material.